Thursday, May 15, 2014
Growing Up Plain
This was one of those books that just kind of appeared in my house. I have no idea what it's origins are, but it was a great book. Growing Up Plain is the ramble-y reminiscences of a woman who grew up in a Conservative Mennonite (I was amazed that Wikipedia had a page on Conservative Mennonites! Dear Wikipedia, you know everything) home in the 50s. Each chapter is just a string of stories, following Shirley Kurtz through her childhood all the way to college. The book was really short-only about 75 pages- and I sped through it.
Now for my analysis of the book. Kurtz is an extremely gifted writer. She has a funny voice that comes through clearly in all of her books and the ability to make you understand a very niche viewpoint. That said, the book was quite skimpy. It felt almost like a book of memories that you would write down for your children to read and remember instead of a published book. Kurtz occasionally went off on little tangents, analyzing a boy at school or the way the bishops behaved when she was a girl. The wasn't necessary and I think that the book could have been made a little more concise if those parts had been left out. I also think that this book would make a lot more sense if you at least have some understanding of Conservative Mennonite culture. This is not a book for somebody who has never even heard of these people. However, if you have read something before this or perhaps even know a Conservative Mennonite, this is going to be a very interesting and funny read. Kurtz's stories are interesting and understandable to those who know about where she came from.
If you want to read this book (and I recommend that you do), but have no prior knowledge of Conservative Mennonites, start by reading An Introduction to Old Order and Conservative Mennonite Groups. This will be good place to get started and then you'll really enjoy Growing Up Plain.
Ps. I'm experimenting with using amazon affiliates program. This means that if any of my readers follow this link and buy the product I linked to, I will get a small commission. I promise that all the opinions on this blog are still my own and amazon has not paid me anything to review a book one way or the other. Please let me know if you have any questions. I'll be more than happy to answer them.