Jennifer's Reviews > Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen
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's review
Jan 17, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: memoir
Recommended to Jennifer by: Sunday Weakley
Read in January, 2012

I almost quit this book after just 20 pages. First it was the plug from Elizabeth Gilbert on the cover, then it was the “text box” on the first page that made me wonder if the whole narrative was going to be dumbed down, as if the other piece of literature on my bedside table was the National Enquirer. Coincidentally, in one of the later chapters, Janzen makes fun of the Lillian Jackson Braun books, the same breed of book I thought to which this book might belong. But I hung in there, and found some sort of kindred spirit in the author. It might have been the familiarity of backgrounds (historically speaking, the Brethren and Mennonites were once so closely linked that they were mistaken for each other. I did not grow up with the long skirts and borscht, but I recall the heavy German sobriety and the potlucks). Maybe it was her chapter on cooking, which I adored. But most likely, it was her spiritual journey - from being raised on groupthink to growing into a more intellectual search for meaning - that had me thinking, “ja, sehr gut.”

Other reviews have complained that the author is mean and snarky instead of being funny, and I guess there were times I agreed with that. She did write some things that made me think, “wow, will these people ever talk to her again if they read this?” Still, it didn’t bother me. Cookie Monster maniacally eats cookies and it makes kids laugh because they know they could never get away with it. Rhoda Janzen makes bite-y remarks and I laugh, only because I know I could never get away with saying those things, myself. At times this book reminded me of “Traveling Mercies,” every once in a while it reminded me of “A Girl Named Zippy.” But being the only memoir I’ve read about a renegade Mennonite, this one will stand alone on the bookshelf.

Favorite quote (from Janzen’s mother, who I love): “When you’re young, faith is often a matter of rules. What you should do and shouldn’t do, that kind of thing. But as you get older, you realize that faith is really a matter of relationship - with God, with the people around you, with the members of your community.”

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