Amish Fiction – Why Is It Booming In The Christian Market?

March 19, 2009 Posted by Cecelia Dowdy

Thanks to the authors and readers who commented on this blog post.

The following Christian Fiction Authors commented:
Julie Lessman
Tina Ann Forkner
Robin Bayne
Mary Connealy

The following Christian Authors of Amish Fiction responded:
Janice Thompson
Wanda Brunstetter
Beth Wiseman
Shelley Shepard Gray
Amy Clipston
Cindy Woodsmall
Gayle Roper
Marta Perry
Hillary Lodge

Most of the comments overlapped, so I took the main points and listed them below, giving a general idea about the appeal of Amish fiction in the Christian market. My thoughts and opinions are in brackets.

1. Most of those who commented agreed that people want to escape to a simple, cleaner world, and the Amish life looks appealing. Many long for stronger family values and a stronger relationship with God. We need to find the peace and simplicity that resounded in the lives of our ancestors. Our minds and living spaces are cluttered, and we need relief from our crowded lives; the Amish (novels) provide an escape from our fully-packed lives. [If our modern conveniences are taken away, then we would be forced to focus on our Savior, taking more pleasure in our natural surroundings. The Amish, and their plain, simple habits, almost makes us believe that our lives would be so much easier if we chose to adapt to their style of living.]
[Think of how you look forward to taking a vacation. You anticipate sitting on a tranquil beach, sipping drinks, relaxing, clearing your mind of schedules, work and all kinds of stuff! This sense of tranquility is what many of us MAY believe is the appeal to the Amish. The Amish life offers a permanent vacation from our daily complications. ]

2. The fact that the Amish are separated from us, not using electricity or modern conveniences, makes them fascinating. They are surrounded by mystery. [Why do they choose to live like that? What would it be like if I lived like that? If I were Amish, would my life be more joyful or complete?]
Here are a few facts I discovered about the Amish that lend to their mysterious appeal:
a. The Amish only have an eighth grade education? Gayle Roper mentioned this in her comment on my original post.
b. I perused the two Amish blogs/websites listed in my original post and was very fascinated by this, quoted from the Question and Answer page on the Amish Reader website:
In most communities, teens begin rumspringa, “running around,” at the age of 16. At that time, many of the Ordnung rules are relaxed. The idea is that the kids have a chance to experience the outside world before they commit to the Amish church. Usually around age 18, kids will choose to be baptized into the church.

During rumspringa, Amish teens may purchase cell phones, obtain drivers’ licenses, own cars, and keep generator-operated electronics in their rooms. The boys are more likely to dress English than the girls. They may experiment with cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and sex. Often, kids will join the church when they decide to marry.

The very conservative Schwartzentruber Amish do not participate in rumspringa at all. However, they do follow the “bundling” tradition during courtship: a boy will visit a girl after the family has gone to sleep, spending the night talking with her in her bed.

c. Once you are baptized into the Amish faith, if you should decide to leave at a later date, you are shunned – [which I would find hard to accept! Can you imagine not being able to speak to family, friends, and loved ones because you decide to leave the Amish sometime after your baptism. That would be a tough pill for me to swallow!]

3. A number of the authors who commented had either friends or acquaintances who were Amish OR they grew up near an Amish community, and were familiar with seeing Amish families and buggies. There are differences between the Amish and other Plain people, and in order to write an accurate story, you need to research thoroughly.

4. Sales from Amish Fiction continue to soar, and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

5. Some industry professionals are TIRED of the Amish books, but, they still acquire and publish them because AMISH FICTION SELLS!

Well, I think I’ve worn this topic out! My curiosity about the Amish has been relieved for the time being. I enjoyed posting about them, and I will continue to blog about the Amish and other Plain sects in the future. I read the summaries of some of the Amish novels, and saw quite a few that I’d like to feature on this blog. I’ve reviewed a few Amish titles and look forward to reading more.

I’d like to top off this post with one of the comments that I especially enjoyed. Hillary Lodge said:
The Amish, the Amish. For such a small amount of the American population, they take up a lot of Christian Fiction!…These are uncertain times we live in. The economy is bad, the church is wrestling with a lot of tricky issues. The Amish, with their appearance of simplicity, offer a respite from that. In uncertain times, what could be more comforting than a warm Amish kitchen with pie in the oven? (There’s always pie)

I think people turn to Christian fiction in the first place for its safety, especially for their teens. Amish fiction, in one respect, is that much safer. Nothing really, really bad can happen if the girl on the cover is wearing a bonnet.

Feel free to comment or ask more Amish questions. Also, visit these websites:
Amish Reader
Amish Hearts
to find out more about the Amish!

~Cecelia Dowdy~

14 Responses to Amish Fiction – Why Is It Booming In The Christian Market?

  1. bookwurm70 says:

    It is so interesting to me that it is the FANTASY of a simpler life that attracts people. I have only read a few Amish books. The culture does interest me, just because they have so many strange traditions. But let me tell you, I don’t think their lives are that simple. I live in Moscow, Russia where we can’t get many of the things Americans enjoy (like canned pumpkin and freezer pie crust). To make a pumpkin is NOT simple. My washing machine broke two weeks ago. There are no laundry mats in Moscow (or at least none near me). Washing clothes by hand is a lot of work!!! It takes way more time here anyway (1 1/2 to go through the “short” wash cycle and then 8-24 hours to air dry). I think the simple life is all a fantasy. Definitely healthier to make all your food from scratch, but not simpler.

  2. Sandee61 says:

    I am a huge fan of Amish fiction, and here in OH we have many Amish neighbors and they also enjoy these books. I am so excited that on April 3, I am going to our favorite Christian bookstore to meet Wanda Brunstetter! She’s doing book signings in several areas of Ohio. I feel so blessed for this opportunity, to meet one of my favorite authors.
    Looking forward to many more new authors writing about the Amish.



  3. Marta Perry says:

    The Amish life may be simpler, but it’s certainly not easier. Living out in the country as I do, it’s not unusual for us to have the power go off, and it’s hard work to keep everyone warm and fed without electricity. Of course, we’re not as well prepared for that as Amish families are, but we are better prepared, in a way, than are people who live in cities! I used to write a lot of short fiction for women’s magazines, and I remember one story in which I had the country-dwelling heroine drawing water in preparation for a coming storm. The editor just didn’t get that–why couldn’t she just turn on the tap for water? She obviously didn’t realize that when you get water from a well or a spring, the electric pump is necessary!
    To me, much of the fascination with the Amish comes from their spiritual convictions. They interpret literally the New Testament directive to live “in the world but not of the world,” and so they don’t change their style of dress or living to keep up with worldly values. They do allow for some adaptation–for instance, some Amish businesses use computers and many use telephones, but change comes slowly and with a low of prayerful evaluation of how it will affect the community. And although formal schooling ends at grade eight, many Amish take whatever advanced technical training may be needed for their work.
    Great discussion, Cecelia!
    Marta Perry
    LEAH’S CHOICE, Berkley, Nov., 2009

  4. Connie Pombo says:

    I have lived in Lancaster County Pennsylvania for 22 years now, and all my neighbors are Amish. The only traffic jams I have to worry about are the buggies at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday when they all return from their church meetings. Having lived in California most of my life, I’m mesmerized by their lifestyle. I can see how the “simple” life would be appealing, but strangely enough it is anything but simple!

    The writer’s group that I belong to, just had another call from a major Christian publisher seeking an Amish manuscript. It seems that the Amish books aren’t going away; they are here to stay!

    I’ve enjoyed these posts about my own “backyard.”

  5. Patricia W. says:

    Thanks for following up your prior post with a summary of the discussion, Cecelia.

    I too have been curious about the fascination with Amish fiction within the CBA. Very interesting.

    I agree that there’s curiosity based on difference. However, simple is not easy, as Ms. Perry pointed out. I think that’s why the Amish fiction doesn’t fascinate me. I like to plunge into my character’s world, and that’s not a world I can see myself in. I do however like the idea of simplifying the life we know. Might make for an interesting story…

  6. Seedplanter says:

    My great-grandparents were “Old Order” Mennonites, which was referred to in one of the Amish novels as people who had sold out to modern ways. ha! My grandfather and grandmother met as teens at a picnic, and when they became engaged, decided they would not continue in the Mennonite ways. His sister remained in it, though. He went on to a Bible-believing church and didn’t abandon his faith; just didn’t want to raise his family without electricity or running water.

    Whether it’s Amish or old-order Mennonites, it’s a hard life staying “simple”. I remember visiting this great-aunt the day she glanced across her orchard and noticed that her son had purchased a tv for his family. The telltale antennae on the roof–horrors! I loved visiting there, because of the simpler way of life, but never could understand why they believed they needed to give up so much, in order to avoid “corruption” by the world. It is much harder, in my opinion, to stand up for my beliefs out here in the real world than it is to cloister together and view the rest of humanity as outsiders.

    Amish books are a wonderful glimpse into this simpler life, but as others have pointed out, scratching out a daily living is hard from simple.

  7. Wendy says:

    Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule and researching this. I guess, bottom line is, the Amish don’t use modern gadgets and stuff like that because, by living a simple life, without such “luxuries”, lets them get closer to God. It allows them to grow closer to Him, deepening their relationship with the Lord, since they don’t have those electrical gadgets and amusements to take up time and space in their lives. I believe I have my answer now. Thanks again,

  8. Wendie says:

    Like Wendy said, thanks for doing this. Looks like you had fun. I’ve often wondered about the appeal of Amish fiction. Looks like I have my answer now.

  9. Martha A. says:

    I guess it sort of irritates me….”blush”. I feel that it is protrayed often wrongfully…sometimes like simple life means naive. I grew up living in a amish community and believed alot similar to conservative Mennonites and never heard the term Rumspringa ever used….except that if you are not a member of the church, basically you can’t get into trouble. I heard though of women who were refused communion because they sewed their cape instead of pinning it. We ran into amish people who were making out on the beach….the legality of it all, they can drive in a car, but not own one…some had a phone, but hid it when relatives came over. Others who were friends with us except when their more important amish friends were over and more now….all the people I know who have left the Amish and are so glad to leave it behind!

  10. Kathy says:

    I think part of it is because women in today’s culture wish we could be valued for the things we do within the home-preparing meals, gardening, keeping house, bearing and raising children, etc. and it seems that the Amish put high value on these things for women while the rest of the world, even the Christian world does not seem to. Amish women can (at least in fiction) be unabashedly feminine and womanly. True, they have to wear a religious costume but they don’t have to wear jeans all the time.

    Then there is the perceived closeness within the family and the community. So many of us are so alienated and fragmented.

    And we are overwhelmed by choices to make every day. Our perception of Amish is that their choices are limited and to us that is freeing to read about though whether we would actually like that is another story.

    In Beverly Lewis’s books the people always seem to find a relationship with Christ and then that puts them in tension with their traditional community and they are seen as rebellious.

  11. Anonymous says:

    It is very interesting for me to read that article. Thanx for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more on that blog soon.

  12. I love reading the Amish fiction and western fiction. I only read Christian books so that I don’t have to worry about whether it’s got “trash” in it.
    My only problem is that I can’t afford to buy all the ones I want to read!


  13. Teresa Slack says:

    I’m not a huge fan of Amish fiction myself. Maybe because I have a lot of Amish and Plain neighbors so it’s not that exotic for me. A speaker at a writers’ conf once said small town & rural settings are exotic locales for most of today’s readers. Amish books are even more so. More power to the writers who keep pumping out these books. Like someone already commented, I prefer to read books where I can see myself as the heroine. I know too much about Amish life to want to live it.

  14. Cecelia says:

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Teresa! If I lived close to the Amish, not sure if I’d find their lives fascinating or not. BTW, I did do another series of blog posts on my visit to Lancaster County Pennsylvania. I had dinner at an Amish woman’s home with her family – me and my hubby and a bunch of other tourists. It was quite interesting…AND tasty! 🙂
    ~Cecelia Dowdy~

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