Every writer hopes for a finely-tuned reader who will inspire her to place the best words on the page and who will challenge her to keep listening for even fairer music. As we write, we call upon our Muses as the ancient Greeks did. After we publish, we pray for a few angel readers who read us and know us and can help take our story into the world.
Such a person has entered my life in the form of Marian Longenecker Beaman. The images at the top of her blog say it all. She too grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, at nearly the same time I did. She also went on to college at Eastern Mennonite. She also spent most of her life teaching in higher education. Now she lives in Florida.
We’ve never met in person.
But each time she blogs, she clangs a gong down there in Florida that sets off the chimes of memory here in Virginia.
In a few weeks, we’ll meet in person. But in the meantime, I want my readers to meet Marian, see what she says about my newly published memoir Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World. You might want to follow her weekly posts. She has an amazing collection of artifacts that I hope we’ll someday see in a book.
Marian’s first two paragraphs from this morning’s review follow. Read them below; then jump on the link to her blog where you can finish the review, leave a comment, and then explore an amazing blog.
Shirley Hershey Showalter’s Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World sings the song of her early life as a Mennonite girl in 250 pitch-perfect pages. Born into a family of Lancaster County Swiss Mennonite parents, the author recounts the story of the first 18 years of her girlhood on an 100-acre dairy farm in the 1950s and early ‘60s. The book delivers in its promise to play out her memories of school, church, and home, “the three legs of my childhood stool,” as she puts it. “Each carried both sweet and sour memories” of ways this plain girl fit in and ways she stood out as different.
Her melody line bravely hits the sharps and flats of her experiences. She grabs her reader by the hand to walk into their farm meadow as she and her brother Henry play amid the Holstein cows and fragrant bluebells by the creek on a cloudless, spring day. We learn secrets of good Pennsylvania Dutch cookery in her mother’s kitchen and are privy to recipes of delicious dishes in an appendix to the book. She lets us hear the congregation joyously singing hymns of the faith a cappella in 4-part harmony though in a sex-segregated sanctuary. But her song turns to a minor key as she vividly describes the sudden death of her infant sister, her by turns affectionate and adversarial relationship with her conflicted father, and later in a brush with a rigid Mennonite bishop.
You can also comment here. I’m in the midst of a wonderful, wonderful book launch tour. If you attended the first event in Lititz, or have read the book, or if you live near Harrisonburg, VA; Archbold, OH; Goshen, IN; or Kalamazoo, MI, perhaps I can see you at a future event. Tonight I join Ted Swartz on the stage of Martin Chapel at the Eastern Mennonite Seminary. Tomorrow afternoon I read and sign books at a reception co-sponsored by my home department at EMU and my publisher Herald Press. See the complete tour, times, and places here on my Amazon author page (scroll down to bottom of page):