Sunday, May 9, 2010

Rant Warning: Amish Books for Good Christian Teens (?!?)

Just when I thought CBA couldn't possibly offer one more collection of bonnet-driven drivel, I come across a new Amish series offered from Thomas Nelson's children's division, Tommy Nelson. A Summer Secret is the name of the series. Inspiring Amish fiction for teens. (Gagging now, please go get me a five gallon bucket!)

I read an excerpt of Chapter One, Book One online. A book for teens? Not any I know. Maybe a denim-jumper-wearing, I-haven't-cut-my-glory (hair) since I was 2, socially inept, immature, mama's-taught-me-to-fear-the-"world" kid whose reading level tapped out around age nine? Maybe. A Summer Secret might be an acceptable choice for a fourth grader. But not a teen. I will not be among those good Christian mommies who plan to force their tween and teen daughters to read these books (instead of those other books) so they can become good little bonnet-book reading Christian girls.

Jeff Gerke at Marcher Lord Press sarcastically refers to Amish Fiction (and I paraphrase--see his comments for yourself on his website) as the only fantasy fiction published regularly by mainstream CBA publishers. And I agree. Here's his quote (which I love) taken from an interview with author/artist Rachel Marks.

"It’s a whole genre about an alternate world with a bizarre culture and it’s own language and odd rules. It’s truly another world. It’s called Amish fiction. Christian readers apparently have no problem jumping to alternate realities. They just want certain alternate realities, with bonnets and buggies as the fantasy trappings of choice."

Glad I'm not the only the only one with a bonnet-induced gag reflex.

From the ages of 2-13 I lived in a community with a large population of old-order Amish residents. I have a hard time seeing the characters portrayed in this "fantasy-fiction" as at all comparative to the characters I saw in that community in my daily life. The Amish lifestyle is based upon tradition, legalism, and some downright crazy ideas about indoor plumbing, procreation, women's roles, facial hair and "The English." But they do make some mighty fine quilts.

The Amish lifestyle is not charming. It's not like Witness (starring Harrison Ford). Neither does it resemble For Richer or Poorer (starring Tim Allen and Kirstie Allie) as entertaining as those films are-- and I can guarantee that, other than a sense of place and an adherence to culturally acceptable wardrobe, the truth holds little resemblance to anything like what I've read in the one or two Amish "Christian" novels I choked through a few years back. The Amish life is a hard life filled with religiously sanctioned abuse--especially against women--and with little or no room for a theology of Grace.

And this is what we're selling to our girls. Go team.

Warning: please set your Sarcasmometers to stun before reading the following paragraph.

Forget secular market trends in teen fiction, because that ungodly tripe could not possibly be suitable reading for our sweet, impressionable young ladies of the church. Give them the stuff that's selling so well to their mammas and grandmammas (forget that it's all we're publishing right now) because then they can carry it (along with their Bibles, of course) in their quilted tote bags with them to youth group and not embarrass us in front of the adults of the congregation. Big sigh of relief. God will surely bless us for our prudent publishing practices.

Puh-leeze. That mirror is cracked.


Carol V. said...

You are in NO WAY - the only two people (you and Jeff Gerke) who want to throw up every times they see a new "Christian Fiction release." HONEST TO PETE! I have yet to meet anyone in my huge church (over 1500 members - thousands more attend our varied Sunday services) who say, "Hey, have you read the latest ____? It's another in an Amish series tradition!! It's AWESOME." Not once, not ONE TIME. It's maddening. And good authors in the Christian Speculative Fiction area struggle to become published. What is the matter with these publishers?!

Great Blog and glad to hear I'm not the only one with such gag reflexes!

Tracy Krauss said...

Oh yeah! You go, girl! I love the sarcastic bite - and, by the way, everything you said hit the nail right on the head and then some. Although we do not have any 'Amish' groups per se in this part of the country, we do have another similar group (I think) called 'Hutterites', which are based, (supposedly) on the Bible, but a very twisted and legalistic version of it. It is THE LAST group I would look to as an example of Godliness or Christ-like living. It is a life style fraught with hypocrisy and barely cloaked abuse. I can't really speak to the 'Amish'Book genre because I have never actually read one.(I never had the desire, usually based on the cover ...) Sounds like I haven't missed anything!

Shawna Williams said...

Can you hear me applauding! You go, Shawna!

Nike Chillemi said...

Until recently I didn't even know what a bonnet book meant. Michelle Sutton had to tell me.

I've never read one, probably never will. Though I do have a modern PennDutch entitle Too Many Crooks Spoil the Broth. I keep putting it to the bottom of my TRL. I'm sure it's a good read. After reading the first pages, I know it'll be fun. But I just can't get to it.

My kids would laugh at these teen bonnet books...but then we're very urban...NYC.

Alan said...

hmm...better tell us what you really think ;). j/k actually i have to agree with you on this rant.

question-do the authors of these Amish fiction books have any close ties to the Amish? Were they once Amish? Or do they write from the outside looking in, assuming this is what they are like?

Grace Bridges said...

Totally with you on this! Well said, indeed!

Martha A. said...

most of them have no idea what it is like to be Amish, I have found! I laugh and laugh when i read most of them or gag.
But before you make fun of us for being stuck in the past, most amish girls and women are just like you, minus the clothing choices. Most of them in the Amish communities are not Christians, in fact most of them end up leaving because they become Christians.
They sleep with their boyfriends, kiss, make out, tell dirty jokes, drink....and there are ones who do not just like among any humans.

They have their own fashion rules, their own ideas, but just like you may crave the top selling purse, their craving may be different, but they are all still human and worthy of respect for their choices even if they are different than yours.

Not every Amish girl dreams of the day she can wear jeans.