Thursday 1 January 2015

Book ~ "Growing Up Amish" (2012) Ira Wagler

From Goodreads ~ Ira Wagler was born in 1961, the ninth of a Canadian Amish couple's eleven children. At seventeen, in the dark of night, he left the religious settlement but it was only nine years later that he finally left the church for good. 

In this memoir, he tells what it was like growing up Old World Amish and what it felt like leaving it for a strange new world. Far more than picturesque; "Growing Up Amish" conveys one man's heartfelt experience. 

The Amish are closely related to but are distinct from Mennonites.  We have some Mennonite communities not too far from Toronto.  I was in one in November and that's why this book caught my eye ... I was curious to learn more.

This is Ira's story.  He was born one of 11 children in Aylmer, ON, which is about two hours SW of Toronto.  When Ira was in his teens, the family moved to another Amish community in Iowa.  Though he tried to fit in with the Amish lifestyle, he craved the freedom of the outside world.  He left the community four times, the first time sneaking away in the middle of the night when he was 17.  He kept going back, hoping this time it would take.  He finally left for good nine years later.

It was interesting to learn more about the Amish.  They are are known for simple living, plain dress and reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology.  They have prohibitions or limitations on the use of electricity, telephones and automobiles, as well as regulations on clothing.

Amish church membership begins with baptism, usually between the ages of 16 and 25. It is a requirement for marriage, and once a person has affiliated with the church, he or she may marry only within the faith.  Worship services are held every other Sunday in a member's home.  Members who do not conform to community expectations and who cannot be convinced to repent are excommunicated and shunned (this happened to Ira).

They typically operate their own one-room schools and discontinue formal education at grade eight (at age 13 or 14), believing that the basic knowledge offered up to that point is sufficient to prepare one for the Amish lifestyle which values rural life, manual labor and humility.

I liked the writing style and found it flowed well.  I found this book to be an interesting read and it's a lifestyle I would have a hard time living.

My only complaint is that he didn't tell us what he's been doing in the 25 years since he left the church ... just an update of a couple paragraphs in the epilogue would have been nice.  Does he see his siblings (both those who stayed in the community and those who didn't)?  Did he get married? Did he end up furthering his education?  I had to go to his website to get an update.

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