Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I am Hutterite by Mary-Ann Kirby

Rating 4 out of 5 for its genre
Hardcover 224 pages
Publisher Thomas Nelson (May 2010)
Genre Memoir
Source this book is courtesy of Book Sneeze

About the book. . .
I Am Hutterite: The fascinating true story of a young woman's journey to reclaim her heritage takes the reader into the inner workings of the little-known Hutterite colony in southern Manitoba where author Mary-Ann Kirkby spent her childhood. Kirkby sets up a vast network of characters, mostly family members, who  provide the reader with insight into this commune where the community kitchen ensures that everyone gets fed, the community school ensures that all the children are cared for and educated, and the outside world, with its technology, commercialism, and strict socio-economic structure just does not factor into everyday life.  If Kirkby didn't throw in some hints about the kinds of equipment and vehicles they used, this story could have been going on in the 1860s rather than the 1960s.

At ten years old her parents pack up their seven children and a handful of possessions and leave the security of the colony to start a new life. Overnight they are all thrust into a world that they don't understand, and a world that doesn't want to understand them. The author is desperate to fit into this new world, even at the expense of denying her heritage and hiding her culture from others well into her adulthood.  This memoir is the author's reconciliation with herself, written really to benefit her son so that he will understand who he is.
My thoughts. . .
When I read, I always try to picture the student that needs to read this book. This book is for the reader who enjoys a quiet book, who enjoys escaping into a world very different than the ones depicted on television, in the magazines,  even outside the door. This is for the reader who doesn't need to read fantasy and science fiction to understand that there are other worlds that exist around us. This is for the reader that feels like they don't quite fit in; the reader who feels that perhaps they were born in the wrong decade, the wrong century. I hope they find solace here. This book is about a people who live and argue and breathe as one family. It is about idyllic complacency. It is also about loss, and culture shock and shame. Mostly, though, it is the author's long journey to acceptance. I think it teaches teens that sometimes secrets and shame can stay hidden for a long time. Sometimes we can swallow the shame about ourselves, about our past and succeed in hiding it from even those that are close to us. But it's never too late to make the journey back. I'm glad that there were still open arms to take Kirkby back, even just for the day, so that she really could tell this story. This story, the story of these people, deserves a wide audience and the right reader to embrace it.

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