Alan Stucky'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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Feb 02, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: anabaptist-related, pop-culture

I loved this book. For a while now I've been struggling with the fact that out of my closest peer group in college (which at times was quite large) I can count on one hand the number of people that I know that still have any involvement with church. Rhoda expresses, almost verbatim sometimes, a deep and profound love/hate relationship with the Mennonite church. She reacts deeply to the confines of the community that she grew up in, yet when she is in her deepest moments of crisis she turns to that community for comfort and support.

I hated this book. I know that most everyone outside of the Anabaptist tradition doesn't know about the differences between the various groups and probably doesn't care. But even though my particular group is actually closely related (at least biologically and culturally) we very different theologically. She lumps all "Mennonites" into one category. For claiming to have a broad worldview, when it comes to her understanding (at least in this book) of the Mennonite and Anabaptist tradition, she is still has an incredibly small understanding of the world and of history. The Mennonites that she is referring to are from Russia, of German decent and conservative (more in a Pat Robertson kind of way rather than and Amish way). There is also no mention of the fact that being Mennonite is first and foremost a theological issue. She does a good job of critiquing the over attachment to a certain brand of cultural trappings. However, she never gets around to truly understanding the heart of her own tradition. In fact, I don't even think it's an issue of not choosing to deal with that for the sake of reaching a non-Mennonite audience. I don't think she has (and has explicitly rejected) the theological and spiritual maturity to even be able to articulate something deeper.

That being said, she's clearly on a journey. In this story she ends at a point where she is coming home in a time of pain but is also, ever so slightly, starting to open herself back up to her own tradition. I hope that her next step is to ask why it is that her home community is a source of comfort to her. Is it merely because the still make foods you knew as a kid? Or, just maybe, it's because their understanding of life, God, faith and community have shaped them into people who are able to extend grace, just when it's needed the most.
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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Ann (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ann Flory OK, but once she tells you her joke you don't need to hear it again, and again, and again.........


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