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Plain Secrets: An Outsider among the Amish [Paperback]

By Joe Mackall (Author)
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Item description for Plain Secrets: An Outsider among the Amish by Joe Mackall...

The author describes his relationship with a neighboring Swartzentruber Amish family, the Shetlers, over sixteen years, using the example of the Shetlers to look at the lives and customs of the Swartzentruber Amish in general.

Publishers Description
Joe Mackall has lived surrounded by the Swartzentruber Amish community of Ashland County, Ohio, for over sixteen years. They are the most traditional and insular of all the Amish sects: the Swartzentrubers live without gas, electricity, or indoor plumbing; without lights on their buggies or cushioned chairs in their homes; and without rumspringa, the recently popularized "running-around time" that some Amish sects allow their sixteen-year-olds.
Over the years, Mackall has developed a steady relationship with the Shetler family (Samuel and Mary, their nine children, and their extended family). "Plain Secrets" tells the Shetlers' story over these years, using their lives to paint a portrait of Swartzentruber Amish life and mores. During this time, Samuel's nephew Jonas finally rejects the strictures of the Amish way of life for good, after two failed attempts to leave, and his bright young daughter reaches the end of school for Amish children: the eighth grade. But "Plain Secrets" is also the story of the unusual friendship between Samuel and Joe. Samuel is quietly bemused--and, one suspects, secretly delighted--at Joe's ignorance of crops and planting, carpentry and cattle. He knows Joe is planning to write a book about the family, and yet he allows him a glimpse of the tensions inside this intensely private community.
These and other stories from the life of the family reveal the larger questions posed by the Amish way of life. If the continued existence of the Amish in the midst of modern society asks us to consider the appeal of traditional, highly restrictive, and gendered religious communities, it also asks how we romanticize or condemn these communities--and why. Mackall's attempt to parse these questions--to write as honestly as possible about what he has seen of Amish life--tests his relationship with Samuel and reveals the limits of a friendship between "English" and Amish.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Plain Secrets: An Outsider among the Amish by Joe Mackall has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2009 page 11

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Beacon Press
Pages   208
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.5" Height: 8.5"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 1, 2008
Publisher   Beacon Press
ISBN  0807010650  
ISBN13  9780807010655  

Availability  5 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 21, 2016 06:11.
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More About Joe Mackall

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Joe Mackall is the author of The Last Street Before Cleveland. A professor of English and journalism at Ashland University, he is coeditor of the journal River Teeth and has written for NPR's Morning Edition, the Washington Post, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, among other publications. Mackall lives in West Salem, Ohio.

Joe Mackall was born in 1958.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Leaders & Notable People > Religious
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Protestantism > Amish
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Religion

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Reviews - What do customers think about Plain Secrets: An Outsider among the Amish?

It isn't a secret anymore.  Mar 8, 2008
Plain Secrets was our choice for our book club this month. It was an informative read. Much info about the Amish of Ohio and a good conversation work.
Plain Secrets: An Outsider Among the Amish  Mar 8, 2008
Very enjoyable read. Mackall uses his sensitivity, humor and vulnerability to tell us a real story about real Amish people. Living next door and making friends with a Swatzentruber (very orthodox & traditional) Amish family, he is there for them in their time of need, and they welcome him in to their lives - to a certain point. Mackall smashes many of the popular, but inaccurate notions we have about the Amish and leaves us a little more informed and thoroughly entertained.
A very good read..  Jan 25, 2008
As someone who grew up Swartzentruber Amish in the same community as the "Shetler" family I consider this to be one of the best books on the Amish I've ever come across. It accurately tells the real story without being offensive. My only problem with reading it was knowing how private the Amish are I felt like I was eavesdroping! If you are looking for an accurate account of life inside the Swartzentruber Amish community this book is a must read.
Proves Samuels Point ABout Buggies IMO  Jan 19, 2008
Good book, worth reading. Honest, interesting.

Joe Mackall ends up proving the Amish points FOR them in the buggy arena. The English are the ones who need to explain those buggy deaths, not Samuel & his brethren. As Mac says, there are virtually no buggy on buggy deaths- yet he blames the buggy-car deaths on... THE AMISH!!! ???? Blaming the victim, the author's cultural imperialism becomes quite clear... He doesn't seem to have much introspection into the choices and sacrifices he has accepted as normal while qualifying the Amish as abnormal. He bemoans the opportunities and education afforded Amish girls as opposed to boys while the maintsream culture he partakes in has done no better and has created a popular culture porno-slut ideal of womanhood.

Engaging, intelligent look at the Amish life  Jan 6, 2008
Mackall's Plain Secrets is excellent research and memoir combined. It's also great writing, which makes for great reading. Mackall watches and listens carefully to his Amish friends and neighbors, and then examines their beliefs by dissecting his own beliefs about life, family and religion in our modern day. His research is not intended to be a textbook on the Amish, rather, it adds credibility and insight. Combined with his own large capacity for empathy and concern, his research helped him avoid either condemning or romanticizing their way of life. Having read this, I'll view the buggies that pass me with more respect and less cartoonish curiosity; I'll also be more thankful for my access to health care and safe workplaces. But the real reason to read this book is not to learn about the Amish, it is to enjoy an engaging book while learning about people you would otherwise never meet.

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