Writing Life, Writing Back, and Writing Through: Saloma Miller Furlong's Why I Left the Amish: A Memoir and Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman's Ties to Two Worlds

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2016

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Ohio State University. Libraries

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Abstract

In recent years, the memoir boom has left publishers searching far and wide for new material. As part of this trend and the immense demand for anything Amish, non-professional writers have seized the opportunity to make their voices heard. While there is a wealth of scholarship on the Amish, the often trauma-filled narratives of the ex-Amish have neither been widely accessible to the public, nor the subject of much academic scrutiny until recently. This article explores the memoir, its genre conventions, and current debates. Furlong’s debut memoir, Why I Left the Amish (2011), is a powerful narrative about a desperate struggle for self-determination. She breaks the silence on mental illness as well as physical and sexual abuse among the Amish while also providing readers with cultural information and alternative perspectives on Amish traditions and values. At the same time, Why I Left the Amish raises a few ethical concerns. In the second installment to her serial memoirs, Furlong explores the challenges of beginning a new life in an unfamiliar environment and coming to terms with her trauma-filled past. Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman’s Ties to Two Worlds (2014) is a more polished memoir, in which Furlong critically reflects on her first memoir, narrates her struggle to build interpersonal relationships, as well as continues to forge her own intersectional identities.

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Ex-Amish memoir, Serial memoir, Reader response theory, Memoir boom, Scriptotherapy, Trauma, Cultural scripts, Intersectional identities, Privacy, Ethics

Citation

Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies v. 4, no. 2 (2016), p. 201-219.