To Be or Not to Be Amish
By Tom Shachtman
(North Point Press, Hardcover, 9780865476875, 304pp.)
Publication Date: May 30, 2006
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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A revelatory look at Amish youth as they have never been looked at before Rumspringa is a fascinating look at a little-known Amish coming-of-age ritual, the rumspringa—the period of “running around” that begins for their youth at age sixteen. Through vivid portraits of teenagers in Ohio and Indiana, Tom Shachtman
offers an account of Amish life as a mirror to the soul-searching and questing that we recognize as a generally intrinsic part of adolescence.
The trappings of the Amish way of life—the “plain” clothes and electricity-free farms—conceal the communities’ mystery: how they manage to retain their young people and perpetuate themselves generation after generation. The key to this is the rumspringa, when Amish youth are allowed to live outside the bounds of their faith, experimenting with alcohol, premarital sex, trendy clothes, telephones, drugs, and wild parties. By allowing them such freedom, their parents hope they will learn enough to help them make the most important decision of their lives—whether to be baptized as Christians, join the church, and forever give up worldly ways, or to remain out in the world.
In this searching book, Shachtman draws on his skills as a documentarian to capture young people on the cusp of a fateful decision, and to give us an original and deeply affecting portrait of the Amish as a whole.
TOM SHACHTMAN is an award-winning documentarian and the author of many books, including Skyscraper Dreams, Around the Block, and The Day America Crashed.
"If there are two groups that are difficult for an outsider to understand, it's surely Amish and adolescents--but Shachtman's book penetrates their world and provides a wealth of fascinating information. Oh, and it's really
fun to read, too." --Mark Oppenheimer, author of THIRTEEN AND A DAY