1) Your mother, to whom your book is dedicated, and your sisters are often busy preparing food throughout your memoir. What food or drink do you see as the epitome of Amish culture? Why?
Amish food is simple, delicious and starchy. We always had meat of some kind, gravy, mashed potatoes, and often noodles. Starch, right there. Usually, there was a vegetable, too, string beans or some such thing. For breakfast, always farm fresh eggs, gravy of some kind, and toast. Simple and very good. We drank water and coffee. I started drinking coffee as a young teenager.
I would guess the Amish focus on these foods, because they are readily available on the farm.
2) In your memoir, you remember penmanship in school. What were the other subjects like? How did your Amish schooling transfer into the academic world outside the colony (transfer denoting more the experience than literal GED, etc)?
School was very basic, focused on the basic subjects. Reading, writing and arithmetic. I had eight grades of formal education, then graduated to work on the farm. I would stack my Amish school education against any other program out there. We weren't taught a lot, but what was taught was taught well. That was my situation. Some Amish schools are lacking, as many English schools are, too. I stridently defend the right of the Amish to teach their own children.
3) While we set up this interview through email, you mentioned traveling to an ex-Amish meetup in the future. What is it like to be a member of the ex-Amish community? What holds the community together? What's it like?
It's very loose and informal, but we all recognize that each of us has traveled his or her own journey to get to where we are. The Bloomfield reunion happens about once every five years. I always look forward to reconnecting with people from my own place and my own background. It's a unique bond.
4) My grandparents are an example of the Amish's English neighbors. I remember chasing an Amish boy's loose rabbit around their farm, and (not catching the rabbit) hoping their neighbors would somehow grab the fiend when my grandparents returned from bringing them to the grocery store. How would the Amish community be impacted if they had no English neighbors? In your memoir, you discussed the personal importance of your English neighbors at a local coffee shop. How did they keep you grounded?
The first part of the question, I can't answer. The Amish have always lived among English neighbors, so I have no basis to imagine a scenario where they don't. I don't know if my cafe friends kept me grounded as much as kept me sane. I was thirsting for some sort of real outside connection that would not judge me. My English friends came through in flying colors.
5) Is there anything you would like to share about your upcoming sequel?
It's different. The first book is the agony and ecstasy of youth, the turmoil of breaking free and finding myself. The second book focuses a lot on my father, but so much more. It is the mature voice of a man who has seen and felt a lot of heartbreak and anguish, but is walking free. In the first book, the gospel was hidden. In the second book, it's just part of the narrative as an accepted fact.
6) The Amish have a significantly lower suicide rate than the rest of the population. Based on your memoir, I'd infer the 'Amish' shield and community support probably have something to do with it. Do you have any insight to this topic?
Suicide is not unheard of. My great-grandfather shot himself in the chest. The sequel will include this scene. He was bipolar, I guess we'd call it today. I suppose if the actual rates are lower than outside society, it may be because of the tight knit community that was so hard for me to break free from. You may post any of my answers.
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