Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World by Shirley Hershey Showalter

BLUSH:
A Mennonite Girl Meets a
Glittering World
By: Shirley Hershey Showalter
Publisher: Herald Press
Published: September 29, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-8361-9626-9
Genre: Memoir
Source: Author

Synopsis: 

“I promise: you will be transported,” says Bill Moyers of this memoir. Part Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, part Growing Up Amish, and part Little House on the Prairie, this book evokes a lost time, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, when a sheltered little girl with big dreams entered a family and church caught up in the midst of the cultural changes of the 1950’s and ‘60’s. With gentle humor and clear-eyed affection the author, who grew up to become a college president, tells the story of her first encounters with the “glittering world” and her desire for “fancy” forbidden things she could see but not touch.

The reader enters a plain Mennonite Church building, walks through the meadow, makes sweet and sour feasts in the kitchen and watches the little girl grow up. Along the way, five other children enter the family, one baby sister dies, the family moves to the “home place.” The major decisions, whether to join the church, and whether to leave home and become the first person in her family to attend college, will have the reader rooting for the girl to break a new path. In the tradition of Jill Ker Conway’s The Road to Coorain, this book details the formation of a future leader who does not yet know she’s being prepared to stand up to power and to find her own voice.

The book contains many illustrations and resources, including recipes, a map, and an epilogue about why the author is still Mennonite. Topics covered include the death of a child, Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, the role of bishops in the Mennonite church, the paradoxes of plain life (including fancy cars and the practice of growing tobacco). The drama of passing on the family farm and Mennonite romance and courtship, as the author prepares to leave home for college, create the final challenges of the book.

(Source: Amazon)

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My Recommendation: 

Shirley Hershey Showalter gives the reader a view into the life of a Mennonite farm girl in the 1960s, an intimate look. I have visited Pennsylvania, specifically the Lancaster County area, and I have seen Mennonite and Amish farms, those farm families on the streets of various small towns, and the shopkeepers from whom I purchased items to bring home. But seeing is not the same as living as an Amish or Mennonite and then sharing it on the written page. Thank you, Shirley, for giving me a marvelous trip into Mennonite farm life.

The author and I are about the same age so I related on a very personal level with her growing up years and the things happening in the world at that time. What I found most amazing is that, although I grew up a Methodist and the author a Mennonite, our lives were startlingly similar, almost mirror images. The Methodist Church had at that time, based on family values, some rigid ground rules, as the author experienced in the Mennonite church, family and community.

On another level, the author and I had similar dreams — writing, college, moving on, experiencing the world. We both fought similar battles to carry out our dreams. Today, except for a difference in where our professional lives took us, we connect in a parallel world called the Internet in memoir and writing communities.

For me, this book took me on a journey of reminiscences of my life, including dreams, frustrations, disappointments and more. Another reviewer, who grew up on a farm, felt similarly in that she could relate so closely with the author’s life as a farmer’s daughter.

I share these words with you not to detract from the review of the book but to show you just how effectively Showalter has written her stories down. They are real, and you can feel the rhythm of each day as she follows her father around the family farm. And Blush is built on a theme of universality, and Showalter accomplishes this beautifully.

Showalter’s desires to move into the more “glittering world” as a college student and writer were also the dreams of her mother as a girl. The reader senses the author’s mother encouraging her with unspoken words. Once again, palpable stories full of description and the members of the author’s family.

A message of faith runs through Showalter’s stories as an undercurrent to the stream of her life with its dreams and yes, its rules. And in the epilogue, it is clear why she chose to stay with the Mennonite Church in the end.

My Recommendation:

For a memoir that will keep you reading and perhaps, like me and other reviewers, thinking back over your own life’s experiences, Blush is that memoir. Showalter’s writing style is fluid, colorful, and honest. Her stories speak to us of life as it really happened, life on the farm but with an insistent pull to the “glittering world.”

Book Trailer: 

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Meet Shirley Hershey Showalter:

Shirley Hershey Showalter via Amazon

Shirley Hershey Showalter via Amazon

Shirley Hershey Showalter (1948 – ) grew up on a Mennonite family farm near Lititz, Pennsylvania. The first person in her family to go to college, she eventually became the first woman president of Goshen College in Indiana, a national liberal arts college noted for its commitment to peace and international service learning. She joined the Fetzer Institute in 2004, a private operating foundation with this mission: “to foster awareness of the power of love and forgiveness in the emerging global community.” In 2010 she became a full-time writer living in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She has won awards for excellence in each of the fields she entered: teaching, higher education, leadership, and writing. Her memoir “Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World” (September 19, 2013) tells the story of a little girl who dreamed big and was transformed by dreams much bigger than her own.

“I promise: you will be transported,” says Bill Moyers of this memoir. Part Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, part Growing Up Amish, and part Little House on the Prairie, this book evokes a lost time, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, when a sheltered but feisty little girl entered a family and church caught up in the midst of the cultural changes of the 1950’s and ’60’s. With gentle humor and clear-eyed affection, the author tells the story of her first encounters with the “glittering world” and her desire for “fancy” forbidden things she could see but not touch.

* * *

UP NEXT:  Tomorrow is Friday so it’s time for Friday Favorites, and I’ll be talking about my first library visit and card.

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14 thoughts on “Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World by Shirley Hershey Showalter

  1. RebeccaScaglione - Love at First Book October 27, 2013 at 10:21 am Reply

    This sounds really interesting. I think that it is good to hear from someone who had conflicts but chose to stay with their culture. So many books (interesting and amazing books) show how people broke away from their cultures. But what about the people who conflicted but stayed within? Those stories are important too!

    Like

    • Sherrey Meyer October 29, 2013 at 9:54 pm Reply

      Rebecca, I agree wholeheartedly with your comment about hearing from a person who has chosen to stay despite the conflicts they experience within their culture. Very important stories indeed!

      Like

  2. shirleyhs October 25, 2013 at 5:04 am Reply

    Bob sounds like a keeper, Sherrey! And there you go again, Sharon, boiling down thoughts into their essences! To embrace our blush we take “that feeling of being different and strive to be more.” Eventually we realize we ARE more. So glad to have friends who help me see what I am saying, and, more importantly, help me live into wisdom in my frisky older years.

    Like

    • Sherrey Meyer October 25, 2013 at 8:38 pm Reply

      Bob is definitely a k eper, Shirley! That’s why I’ve “kept” him these 32 years. Those are wise words, “that feeling of being different and strive to be more.” I think I lived that growing up but didn’t realize it until I met Bob and he helped me begin to see that I was and am more.

      Like

  3. Sharon Lippincott October 24, 2013 at 2:54 pm Reply

    Sweet review, sweet chat. Well done, Sherrey. Plenty of others have and will write standard reviews, as standard as possible for such an innovative book. Your insights add value. My girlhood church was more accepting, but I was “different” in other ways. Weren’t we all? Shirley speaks that that feeling of being different and striving to be more in spite of it, a universal message indeed.

    Like

    • Sherrey Meyer October 25, 2013 at 8:36 pm Reply

      Sharon, thanks for checking out my review and leaving such gracious words. We are all unique and therefore, “different,” aren’t we? And how is it we continue to forget that no one is alone in their uniqueness or their differences? Maybe if we could get this into our heads there’d not be so much picking apart the other fellow! 🙂

      Like

  4. shirleyhs October 24, 2013 at 10:37 am Reply

    Sherrey, I think it’s neat that you and your husband talk about your online friends at breakfast. 🙂 Tell him we can even make friends with each other’s husbands. Just ask Marian.

    And I am as delighted as you are to have a three-way conversation with Marian. So much fun. The real tie is the spiritual one that allows us to recognize the hard-won wisdom of another person.

    Like

    • Sherrey Meyer October 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm Reply

      Shirley, in the 32 years Bob and I have been married, I can’t think of a single moment in time we haven’t shared everything. It was the obvious trait in him that I loved so immediately. My first husband could not see beyond himself and money. Bob is rich in gifts and talents, and I love hearing about his three bands and the things his ingenious mind daily invent. Likewise, he is my encouragement in my writing and other endeavors. Our web site for our cottage business crashed recently with the demise of an old computer. Bob’s first words to the Web Master (me) were, “Reconstructing the site does NOT come before your writing.” Do you know how much I loved him in that moment? One example of why we share over breakfast the things most couples wouldn’t. 🙂

      Could we be farther apart geographically than the east and west coasts? But we’re enjoying a friend-to-friend chat right here, right now! I do love it, and the two of you!

      Like

  5. Sherrey Meyer October 24, 2013 at 9:35 am Reply

    Marian, it is so fitting that we three should be here as the first commenters. Shirley actually introduced me to your blog and you! And now we three are all together in one place.

    Thanks so much for your affirmation of my review of Shirley’s memoir and my use of contrasts. I felt that was a bit of a step outside the box for a reviewer, but it was so rich for me in that regard.

    And I appreciate your thoughts on my site. I try!

    Like

    • marianbeaman October 24, 2013 at 11:33 am Reply

      Sherrey, It’s not too far out of the box. Sometimes the subjective has more appeal than the strictly objective, even in the formality of a book review.

      And online friendships? Let’s just say I have much to write about in my gratitude journal today.

      Like

      • Sherrey Meyer October 24, 2013 at 12:08 pm Reply

        Ah, sweet Marian! How you have warmed my heart today. Have you read Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts centered around gratitude and how giving thanks for the small things is so enriching? Take a look — I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it!

        Like

  6. marianbeaman October 24, 2013 at 9:29 am Reply

    Your review certainly does justice to Shirley’s compelling memoir. I like the contrasts you draw between seeing vs living the Lancaster County farm life and the similarities and differences you observed between the Mennonite and your own Methodist upbringing. And I love the words you use to identify the bedrock of the author’s convictions: “A message of faith runs through Showalter’s stories as an undercurrent to the stream of her life with its dreams and yes, its rules.”

    Like Shirley, I love your website: It is so classy and functional, a goal I aspire to. Again, a superb review, Sherrey.

    Like

  7. shirleyhs October 24, 2013 at 5:29 am Reply

    Sherrey, thank you so much for this insightful, empathetic review. The combination of writing memoir and building community online allows us to find kindred spirits in places we could never have guessed. That kind of connection still thrills me.

    I hope we some day have the chance to sit down over a cup of tea and just tell stories.

    I’ve been wanting to tell you how impressed I am by your website. You just keep getting more sophisticated all the time in your uses of social media, and the look and concept of everything you do is very professional. I’m honored to be reviewed here and would love to engage with your readers if they have questions about the book.

    Like

    • Sherrey Meyer October 24, 2013 at 9:33 am Reply

      Shirley, thank you for writing such a wonderful story of faith, love and community. I shared your comments with my husband over breakfast and his comment was, “You have made so many delightful and warm friends through your writing without even meeting them face-to-face.” Indeed, we are a community of kindred spirits.

      A cup of tea and sharing stories sounds like a wonderful way to expand our friendship.

      I am humbled and a bit overwhelmed by your gracious comments on my site and my growth on social media. I too hope my readers will engage with you here.

      Like

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