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Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  1,224 ratings  ·  205 reviews
Rumspringa is Tom Shachtman's celebrated look at a littleknown Amish coming-of-age ritual, the rumspringa—the period of "running around" that begins for their youth at age sixteen. During this time, Amish youth are allowed to live outside the bounds of their faith, experimenting with alcohol, premarital sex, revealing clothes, telephones, drugs, and wild parties. By allowi ...more
Paperback, 286 pages
Published May 29th 2007 by North Point Press (first published May 30th 2006)
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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 ...more
David Rim
Jun 22, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: people interested in the amish
around page 166, i realized that i don't give a crap about the amish. i think i was hoping for a more nuanced look at the lives of the amish in rumspringa, some sort of beautiful search for meaning in contemplating leaving everything they've ever known. No, nothing like that. This is a poorly written, uninteresting look at a phenomenon that is interesting in and of itself. Again this is one of those books that I wish were written by someone else. Michael Lewis maybe.
May 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in a serious read about religion/culture
“Most Amish are satisfied with their lives; most mainstream Americans express a significant degree of dissatisfaction with theirs…But is satisfaction with one’s life the ultimate good? And is dissatisfaction with it inherently bad?” (p. 269)

This book was an interesting and carefully researched look at the Amish, focusing on the ritual known as Rumspringa (some of the research in this book also served as the focus of the documentary “The Devil’s Playground,” but the book is far more comprehensive
Nov 08, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in Amish
I read this book after watching the documentary film of the same topic and research- The Devil's Playground- this was additional information and had limited Amish youth's self analysis, which was interpreted by the author. The Amish youth who were the subject of the film made reappearances and others who were not had their stories incorporated into this work.

The style of writing is easy to read, with direct quotations of the teenagers, which are better heard than read, like, um, you know what I
Jul 08, 2008 rated it liked it
Pennsylvania, my old stomping ground, is a quirky place. There are odd sayings like "I stoved my finger" instead of "I jammed my finger." "Red up your room" is to clean your room. I once had a waitress ask me, "Can I take your drinks awhile?" I'm not sure, but I think that she was asking for my drink order while I looked at the menu (??) But PA's most famous quirk has got to be the Amish. The Amish are fascinating to me for obvious reasons. I'm curious as to how they can ignore modern convenienc ...more
Jun 03, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2008
I believe I would have enjoyed this book more if the author had picked a small handful of Amish teens in rumspringa and followed them for a year in their lives and then revisited back with them at a later date. The author has too many subjects he interviewed for this book. As a result you never feel you get a true sense of rumspringa and how it affects the Amish youth. At the beginning of each chapter is a short intro about a person unrelated to the people in the remainder of the chapter which i ...more
Mary Beth
Sep 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating glimpse into the world of the Amish. The author intersperses firsthand testimonials with his own research and background information. Shachtman deals with a wider variety of issues than you might think would be encompassed by the idea of rumspringa, including the role of women, deeper matters of faith, economy, etc.

Rumspringa, in my opinion, seems a very bizarre idea. Old Order Amish shun the modern English world and yet let their teenagers venture off into it ill-prepare
Nov 16, 2007 rated it liked it
A book about Amish kids letting loose that's less interesting than it really should be. The Amish allow their teenagers to experience the outside world during a "rumspringa" period - driving cars, partying, etc. - so that they are able to make an informed choice about joining the church as adults (which the vast majority end up doing, although sometimes not until after a lot of drinking and drug use). The topic is interesting - how kids from a very sheltered community deal with going out into th ...more
Jul 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Fairly early on, Shachtman makes a point about the Amish being about as close to a foreign culture Americans can get to within the U.S.—that they seem so different as to function, on some small level, as a tourist attraction.

But the broader is of the Amish as far more like the general population than not...just stricter. Much stricter. More isolated, sort of. (Excellent mention towards the end of the similarities and differences between the Amish and Hasidic Jews, too...)

His focus is on, of cour
Jenny Karraker
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it

Having lived in PA and traveled to Lancaster County on various occasions, I have enjoyed seeing the Amish working in the fields and shopping in the fabric stores. I was surprised to read of so much turmoil during the rumspringa time where teens are allowed to leave the fold and experience worldly pleasures, an experience the adults hope will allow their kids to go through the normal adolescent rebellion and then, on seeing how empty these experiences are, will return to the church which they w
As seem to be on an Amish kick lately, I thought I would stop reading all those Beverly Lewis novels and actually read some nonfiction on this culture. In Rumspringa, though, Shachtman makes a claim that this culture, this religion is in fact a cult, and brings readers into the fold with his dissection of the Amish way of life with a heavy emphasis placed on rumspringa, an odd but time tested practice of allowing teenagers to experience all “worldly” things in order to bring them back into the “ ...more
Jan 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
I did learn a lot about the Amish in this book and I did not like what I learned basically. I had this "little house in the prairie" kind of image in head and now it's definetely gone.
Basically, it goes like this: Amish teens get to experience the "English world" before committing to the church. So, it's sex, drugs and alcohol. Without ANY parental supervision, guidance or support. In the "English world", as far as I know, 16- year olds are not allowed to drink, it's illegal to do drugs and you
May 15, 2008 rated it liked it
The topic of this book seemed very interesting to me: Amish kids are given the chance to live outside the Amish world in an effort to make their decisions to spend their adult lives committed to the Amish church. They're rebellious teenagers who do what other rebellious teenagers do, which was surprising to me. I assumed Amish kids would've been kept so far away from technology that they wouldn't have known what cell phones were.

I have to be honest that I couldn't finish this book. It's broken u
Dec 05, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: all
"... a fascinating look at a little-known Amish coming-of-age ritual, the rumspringa - the period of "running around" that begins for Amish you at the age sixteen. ..Amish youth are allowed to live outside the bounds of their faith, experimenting with the larger world and its temptations: alcohol, premarital sex, phones, drugs, wild parties, etc."
Parents home that the children will then make a decision to ignore the outside "English" way of life and return to be baptized in the Amish faith.
Jun 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, 2-star
Very, very poorly written. Yes, it's nice to realize that the Amish youth do not speak in thees and thous, but one more "like, it's like, you know?" and I was ready to throw this book out the window. The quotes were often so incoherent (and interviewees so jumbled together), I really had no idea what they were talking about.

More annoying than the usual teenage nonsense is the lack of narrative. Shactman is no scholarly author, and the ideas presented are all over the place, with no organization
Feb 05, 2010 rated it it was ok
Given the title, you might think this book is more about Rumspringa than it actually is. While the study of the Amish is a fascinating subject, I unfortunately feel short-changed given the cover and the title. Yes, threads about individuals' stories were woven in, but they certainly didn't make up the majority of this volume. Really a disappointment, given how much interesting information must have been gathered in research.

(read: 22 (read a manuscript))
Aug 27, 2008 rated it did not like it
The author's startling inability to construct simple sentences caused me to abandon this book after only a few pages. His tortuous writing made the subject suddenly less interesting; in fact, I lost interest in all reading for a while after fighting my way past the first chapters of this assault on writing.

Oct 21, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned, book-club
Although the subject matter was very interesting to me, I couldn't get through this. The teenagers blended together and Shachtman's writing style was awkward and dense.

There might be other books about the Amish out there that would be better options from which to learn about this interesting religious order.
Dec 31, 2011 rated it did not like it
I gave it the old college 50-page-rule try, but just couldn't get into it. It reads more like an essay, and I suppose I was hoping for more of an in-depth story or at least something a little less...boring? Could have been an interesting subject, but just seemed bland, repetitive, and regretably general.
Oct 05, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Expected it to be juicy. It's not. It's actually pretty boring. It's mostly about farming.
Kris Patrick
Jun 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
"What the Amish Can Teach Us..." reminded me that I read this shortly after it came out in '06. Ummm...Paints a very different picture.
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a really interesting look into what life is like for Amish teens. I really appreciated the inclusion of such a wide array of stories, and I liked that the mentioned teens were not only revisited throughout their journeys. It was super helpful that Shachtman reminded you of who each teen was when they were mentioned again for the first time in a little while. I also loved the inclusion of psychological theories and their application to Rumspringa and the Amish in general.
Nov 25, 2007 rated it liked it
Like many people, I find the Amish quite fascinating. The idea that people would want to live without modern conveniences seems quaint, and I was interested to learn how they could retain young members. "Rumspringa" is the time in an Amish teenagers' life when s/he is permitted to go out and experience the outside world. The hope is that after reveling in temptation for a short while, they will realize the need to return to their communities and devote themselves to the Amish way of life. But, ...more
May 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: amish
The rumspringa period is intended to give the young Amish some experience of mainstream culture so that they can make informed decisions, when the time comes, about whether or not to join the Amish church as adults. The period ends, ideally, when a young adult in rumspringa decides to be baptized into the church, which implies refraining thenceforth from the illicit behaviors they were allowed briefly to experience. Some 80% of Amish youth do, in fact, return to the fold.

Tom Shachtman's Rumsprin
May 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A very interesting book, and I learned a lot about the Amish community that I didn’t know before.

Apparently, when an Amish teenager turns 16, he or she enters a period of time called rumspringa. Most Amish youth use this time as a way to experience English (i.e., non-Amish) life. During rumspringa, the Amish kids can do things normally prohibited by their religious leaders ... this includes going to parties, listening to secular music, watching TV, driving cars, drinking alcohol, smoking, using
Nov 28, 2007 rated it liked it
One of the chief characteristics of American life in the early twenty-first century is its number of second chances—several careers, multiple marriages, lots of moving of residences, and plenty of opportunities for starting over. Amish youth have few such options, and only one moment in which to make the most important decision—perhaps the only significant decision—of their lives, one that will then define their lives until the end of their days. For once they have agreed to reenter their ancest ...more
Dec 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Paula Nicholson
Mar 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This was a great book. I have no idea as to why I am so obsessed with the Amish Culture. I read this book in 2007 and it was completely interesting. It essentially chronicled some Amish teens in a community and followed their "Rumspringa" which is the period when an Amish teen turns 16 and essentially is allowed to date, wear american style dress, wear makeup, smoke, drink, have sex and experience things that typical teenagers may also experience. This period is really a comming of age for the A ...more
Mar 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book reads like a documentary. The author bases it on 400 hours of interviews with Amish and formerly Amish. "Rumspringa" refers to the period of time when an Amish youth turns 16 when s/he is allowed to "run around" -- experimenting with life in the "English" world. This includes drugs, sex, drinking, buying cars, etc. After this period of experimentation, the adolescents then must make the choice (in their own time - some people take many years to decide) of whether they want to return to ...more
Jan 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book came out about 2 years ago. The reviews I read focused on the introductory chapter, which was intentionally written to grab the reader's attention. From this limited glimpse, it's easy to dismiss the book as "Amish Girls Gone Wild."

I would urge anyone who read the review and came away with this impression to pick up the book and really read it. The title refers to the practice among some groups of Old Order Amish, of allowing teenagers to go out into the world and sample the culture,
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Since I always wanted to be a writer, I consider myself fortunate to have had my work published and produced in many forms—40 histories, novels, and books for children, plus filmed documentaries and TV dramas, poetry, plays, songs, newspaper columns, magazine articles, even a comic book.


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