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Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish by Tom…

Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish (2006)

by Tom Shachtman

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3991844,346 (3.36)19
A revelatory look at Amish youth as they have never been looked at before Rumspringais a fascinating look at a little-known Amish coming-of-age ritual, therumspringa--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 therumspringa, 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.… (more)



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A great and interesting book to read.
It gave me more insight and (inside) information about the Amish people, just like I had hoped it would. The series I watched on television awoke my interest, and this book satisfied (part of) that curiosity.
The parts I loved best were the ones that more or less quoted the teenagers / young adults. It offered a peek inside their heads. Their thoughts, fears, hopes in a period that is difficult for any teenager, but even more when you have to make such a life determining decision as they have. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | May 15, 2014 |
Very interesting read. This book features several Amish teenagers and their struggles to find their place in the world. In the Amish tradition, young adults have a time of "Rumspringa", or "running around" where they are permitted to sample the world outside the Amish way. They all face a huge choice: stay in the secular world, totally separate from the life and family they've known, or be baptized and join the church, thereby giving up some of their newfound freedoms. It's fascinating.
  psychedelicmicrobus | Sep 27, 2013 |
The book is a measured, thoughtful and well-researched view of the period between childhood and commitment to the church (or leaving the church) that the Amish call rumspringa - literally 'running around'. Everything is permitted for these teens and early twenties, or if not exactly permitted, then not forbidden. As an anabaptist sect, the Amish believe that baptism must be entered into freely by an adult, in full knowledge of the alternative, 'English' or mainstream America. This baptism is an unbreakable commitment to the Church and not, as the Baptist sects believe, any guarantee of an eternal dwelling in heaven.

After reading the book, which is written from the point of view of an interested and not-unsympathetic mainstream American, I have a great deal of respect from the Amish's ideas of community and how to maintain it, of their pacifist and non-judgmental stance and forgiveness of all acts by their children, no matter how against their ethics and even the law, during their rumspringa. It is difficult, however, to sympathise with the extreme submissiveness and abnegation of all self-determination of the women, and their insistence on only the most basic of formal education ending at 14. The various bans on electricity, telephones and motors in most circumstances but not all seem hypocritical. It strikes me as ridiculous that ownership and driving of cars (outside of rumspringa) are forbidden, but riding in them and hiring them with a driver isn't. Needless to say, most religions have these strange little peculiarities, but generally they aren't so obvious as with the Amish.

This is a good book, deep, interesting and well-written. Its a slice of America that is generally regarded as quaint, antiquated and a bit of a tourist show. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Amish are a thriving, growing religion that is deeply introspective and cares little what the world thinks of it. ( )
  Petra.Xs | Apr 2, 2013 |
The Amish are an Anabaptist sect, so members must make a decision to join rather than be baptized at birth. "Rumspringa" refers to a period in Amish adolescence when the teen must decide whether to join the church. This decision may include exploration of the "English" comunity (i.e., everyone else), including driving, substances, and sex. Contrary to the book's assertion that this is a coming of age rite, it seems more accurate to understand it as a developmental period--it is protracted, it is not engaged in by all Amish teens (and perhaps not even by most), and many families seem to protest it.

The book is oddly U.S. majority culture-centric. The author tries to bring developmental theory into the mix, but uses theories that for the most part are out of date, not empirically validated, or see adherence to U. S. majority values as the only successful outcome. He implies that Amish youth are psychologically underdeveloped, ignoring the reality that most of the world's youth live in collectively-oriented cultures and have even less than the Amish youths' 8th grade education. The book is best when it sticks to anthropology; when it tends toward pop psychological interpretation, it is less compelling.

I kept wondering what it's like to be a gay Amish youth who holds traditional Amish values. That's a book I'd read. ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
I learned a lot about the Amish from reading this book. The experience is completely foreign to me however. It is unbelievable to me that parents would hold their children hostage to their beliefs and predicate their acceptance on their child's submission to their lifestyle choice. Patriarchal monotheism truly is the breeding ground of fascism.
I got to meet some Amish (even an Amish stripper in Sarasota) in Pinecrest, Fl which is a resort area for them. The young people are just like anyone else except they have a lot of hangups to deal with. ( )
1 vote ElectricKoolAid | Jan 5, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
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The majority never has right on its side.

Never, I say! That is one of those social lies

against which an independent, intelligent man

must wage war. Who is it that constitute the

majority of the population in a country? Is it the

clever folk, or the stupid? ... (Uproar and cries.)

Oh, yes - you can shout me down, I know!

But you cannot answer me. The majority has

might on its side - unfortunately; but right it has

not . . . The minority is always in the right.

- Henrik Ibsen

An Enemy of the People
For Leon Shachtman, 1913-2004
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In the gathering dusk of a warm, humid summer Friday evening in northern Indiana, small groups of Amish-born girls between the ages of sixteen and nineteen walk along straight country lanes that border flat fields of high cornstalks and alfalfa, dotted here and there with neat, drab houses set back from the roads.
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