Thursday, December 4, 2014
Thank you to The Borrowed Book for hosting me, day two.
Today I’d like to talk about my Amish novels, The Bargain and The Bachelor, a bit more in depth. Thanks for coming back.
The problem with writing Amish novels, if it can be properly called a problem, is that readers are extremely knowledgeable. “The Amish would never do thus-and-so,” a few go so far to insist in book reviews. Readers know all the Amish words and spell them the proper way. But the real problem is that there are so many Amish groups and they all have different ways of handling everyday life. They even have different ways of spelling those oh-so-familiar Amish words. Would it surprise you to know that Deitsh/Deitsch/Pennsylvania Dutch is primarily a spoken language? There is no set spelling for the words, and that’s not usually a problem, because the Amish write mostly in English.
My first novel, The Bargain, finds heroine Betsie Troyer whisked into an alien setting: the English world of Hilliard, Ohio as it was in 1971. Book two, The Bachelor, finds her back in her Amish home in Plain City, but a young English girl is staying with her. In other words, worlds collide.
My touchstone Bible verse as I write my Plain City Peace series is Galatians 3:28. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female [there is neither English nor Amish]: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” I want everyone to come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, regardless of how they were raised or what they were taught, because in God’s sight, the Amish are the same as the English.
So how do I imagine the Amish in an English setting, one with all the complications and innovations of the English world? I believe the good Lord has set my feet in a good place to do just that. There are no Amish families living in Franklin County, Ohio, but the Columbus Zoo is not far from my house. I love visiting the zoo, and so do the Amish. In fact, the last three times I’ve visited the zoo, I’ve seen Amish there. It’s a great opportunity for me to see Amish families and how they cope with today’s modern world.
I like the title photo because the colors of the fence palings and the ladies’ dresses are very similar. As I studied the photo later, I made some observations that were helpful to my writing. First, how did the family get to the zoo? As I said, they don’t live in Franklin County. The closest community would be in Logan County near Belle Center, much too far for a horse and buggy, so a vehicle was involved. They could even be from Holmes County.
Second, look at the footwear! Sneakers, Crocs, flip flops—as much variety as an English family! Only the bearded married men are wearing what you might say are sensible Amish shoes. Third, the stroller—not only is it in use (though I never caught a glimpse of the baby), but the cup holders hold what looks like a Sprite and some kind of plastic cup with a sipper lid. Also notice the girl on the far right is clutching a Mountain Dew. And last but not least, notice the sunglasses that the father and the smallest girl are wearing. When we arrived at the zoo, we found a pair of child’s sunglasses. We placed them on a nearby trash can so they would be found by the owner. Well, guess who picked them up?
So this Amish family has made some peace with the modern world. True, I don’t know if they’re Old Order, New Order, or what, but they probably are not the strictest group, Swartzentrubers—the boy’s bangs are not cut like a Swartzentruber boy’s.
Now it’s your turn. Below are more photos I’ve taken at the zoo. Look at them with an eye for detail and tell me in the comments what you notice about the Amish and the modern world.
Notice an amusing change between the title photo and this one of members of the same family?
These ladies are out for an excursion to the zoo. What do you notice?
Here’s a different shot of the same girls. Observations?
Compare to the family in the title photo. What is the same and what is different?
Stephanie Reed lives on the outskirts of Plain City, Ohio, site of a once-thriving