40 Forever:Mennonite in a little black dress


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mennonite in a little black dress

Janzen, Rhoda. Mennonite
in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home
NewYork: Henry Holt and Co, 2009. Print.

The Mennonite Church is kind of interesting. Here are some things I knew before reading Mennonite in a Little Black Dress:

*Mennonites and the Amish are not the same. The Amish broke with the Mennonite church because they thought it was too liberal.
*Mennonites oppose violence under any circumstance. During World War II, some were tarred and feathered for refusing to buy war bonds.
*They don’t watch television, listen to pop music, or dance.
*They don’t all live in Pennsylvania. In fact, there are Mennonite mission posts all over the world.

I picked up Rhoda Janzen’s memoir because I thought it might be fun to learn about what really goes on behind closed doors. Do Mennonite women wear sexy outfits and have lurid love affairs? Are the teens allowed to do drugs and have wild barn party raves like the Amish kids in the documentary, The Devil’s Playground? Do families shun those who dare to leave the religion?

Nope. (Or at least it’s highly unlikely.)

Although the author does leave home to pursue a career in mainstream academia, she never really goes off the deep end (or at least she doesn’t write about it). The book is mostly about her marriage, divorce, and remarriage to a non-Mennonite, mercurial egomaniac. She finally decides to leave him for good, so she moves back home with her family in order to sort things out and work on her dissertation. The only incident in the book that struck me as being slightly subversive is when her mother tries to set her up with a first cousin.


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