I Am Hutterite: The Fascinating True Story of a Young Woman's Journey to reclaim Her Heritage [NOOK Book]

Overview

A Fascinating journey into the heart and culture of a reclusive religious community. I Am Hutterite takes readers into the hidden heart of the little-known Hutterite colony in southern Manitoba where author Mary-Ann Kirkby spent her childhood. When she was ten years old her parents packed up their seven children and a handful of possessions and left the security of the colony to start a new life. Overnight they were thrust into a world they didn't understand, a world that did not understand them. Before she left ...
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I Am Hutterite: The Fascinating True Story of a Young Woman's Journey to reclaim Her Heritage

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Overview

A Fascinating journey into the heart and culture of a reclusive religious community. I Am Hutterite takes readers into the hidden heart of the little-known Hutterite colony in southern Manitoba where author Mary-Ann Kirkby spent her childhood. When she was ten years old her parents packed up their seven children and a handful of possessions and left the security of the colony to start a new life. Overnight they were thrust into a world they didn't understand, a world that did not understand them. Before she left the colony Mary-Ann had never tasted macaroni and cheese or ridden a bike. She had never heard of Walt Disney or rock-and-roll. She was forced to reinvent herself, denying her heritage to fit in with her peers. With great humor, Kirkby describes how she adapted to popular culture; and with raw honesty her family's deep sense of loss for their community. More than a history lesson, I Am Hutterite is a powerful tale of retracing steps and understanding how our beginnings often define us. Controversial and acclaimed by the Hutterite community, Kirkby's book unveils the rich history and traditions of her people, giving us a rare and intimate portrait of an extraordinary way of life.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Readers are fascinated with like-minded believers who inhabit a rural landscape, freely sharing their possessions. A recent search of "Amish and Mennonite fiction" yielded nearly a thousand results. Kirkby was raised a Hutterite, yet her experience was demonstrably different from what Kelly McGillis portrays in the film Witness.

Forty thousand Hutterites currently dwell in the Canadian prairies and their neighboring American states. But other than traveling to nearby towns for provisions, they live a sequestered life in an agrarian community with a communal kitchen. Hutterites were the first to form kindergartens — their sect mandates that children are raised communally — and a mother of several children preparing for a new arrival may send one of her own to live with another family to lessen the burden.

Kirkby's childhood in the colony was idyllic. She looked forward to the daily and seasonal rituals and the chores associated with them. It was the only life she knew until, after a dispute, her father made the painful decision to uproot the family and leave when she was ten years old. Adapting to modernity was difficult. "We didn't know how to swim or skate or ride a bicycle," she recalls. "We had never tasted pizza." As Kirkby becomes a teenager, her assimilation grows easier. But as an adult, her quest to find her place in the world led her to write this book, a fascinating exploration into a world seemingly shut to modern eyes.

Publishers Weekly
This sweeping prairie memoir, self-published in Canada in 2007, rapidly garnered both commercial and literary applause. Recounting the author's journey from a Hutterite girlhood to an adolescence of desperate striving to catch up with fashions of the time, the book manages to pack information about Hutterite life into a coming-of-age narrative without slowing it down. Kirkby's family moved away from their Manitoba colony when she was 10 years old, after what she calls a “near idyllic childhood” in the cradle of a communal society. Once a reader commits the many characters and their relationships to each other to memory, the book becomes as riveting and well-paced as a novel. Kirkby captures the complex cadences of Hutterite life—the bawdy humor and knack for storytelling that stands beside austere ritual, the poverty of personal possession and freedom that exists beside the security of community life—with pitch-perfect writing. She also manages to avoid either vilifying or romanticizing a culture that has been subjected to both. Readers will find themselves hoping that Kirkby follows the popular trend in memoir writing: producing a sequel. (May)
Library Journal
The Hutterite faith was founded in the 16th century by Jacob Hutter, an Austrian hatmaker who believed in shared property and people working together for the common good. Their practices of adult baptism, staunch pacifism, and community life led to persecution that drove them from Europe to North America. Those prejudices continue to this day: Kirkby details the misunderstandings faced when her family attempted to integrate into Canadian society. She tells the story of several generations of both sides of her family, their immigration to Canada, their becoming part of the Hutterite community, and what drove her parents to leave to join the "English" world of outside society. Kirkby describes her journey from burying her past to fit in as a child with her peers to finding acceptance of her heritage as an adult while writing this book. Interlaced throughout are descriptions of Hutterite cuisine and fashion, and explanations of religious practices and politics within these groups. VERDICT Kirkby's prose weaves a poignant tapestry of life in a Hutterite colony, both the joys and the hardships, a story that is at times heartbreaking. But readers won't be able to put the book down as they're drawn into her world. Those who grew up in "English" society will get to enjoy not only a well-researched family history but also a wonderfully detailed cultural and religious history of these societies as shown through the eyes of the author. Highly recommended.—Crystal Goldman, San José State Univ. Lib., CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781418560324
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/4/2010
  • Sold by: THOMAS NELSON
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 75,077
  • File size: 902 KB

Read an Excerpt

I Am Hutterite

The Fascinating True Story of a Young Woman's Journey to Reclaim Her Heritage
By MARY-ANN KIRKBY

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2010 Mary-Ann Kirkby
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8499-4810-7


Chapter One

"Der G'hört Mein!" "He's mine!"

New Rosedale Hutterite Colony, Western Canada November 1952

My mother, Mary Maendel, rose early Sunday morning and gently pushed back the feather quilt on her side of the bed, careful not to wake her niece, Sarah, who lay motionless beside her. No one stirred in the alcove just a few feet away, where her other nieces, Lena, Katie, Susie, and Judy, were still enveloped in sleep. She collected her clothing from a nearby chair and slipped on her cropped white shirt, or Pfaht; her vest, or Mieder; an ankle-length, gathered skirt, or Kittel; and a pleated apron called a Fittig. Then she quietly proceeded downstairs.

Yesterday was cleaning day on the colony, and the floors and furniture had been thoroughly washed down and wiped. But in a culture where cleanliness and godliness were revered virtues, Mary was determined that today, one of the most important days of her life, the house would be spotless. A bar of homemade lard soap called Specksaften, resembling a square of butter, slowly melted into her pail of hot water, filling it with sudsy bubbles. Down on her hands and knees, she began washing the floors, her deft, young hands moving easily around the Schlofbänk, or sleeping benches, filled with children deep in slumber. The soundless movement of her washrag kept time with their breathing, and the house soon responded with the sharp scent of wet wood and wax.

By 7:00 a.m. she had finished her chores. Outside, the wind was tossing the lifeless branches of the old oak trees that separated the colony's neat semicircle of homes from the barns and machine shop.

Through the front window she could see lines of adults and children scurrying over to the community kitchen for breakfast. Bearded men wearing black, homespun jackets and trousers, and women in ankle-length patterned skirts and vests, some still knotting identical polka-dot kerchiefs under their chins, strode purposefully and in single file toward a large central building that drew them together three times a day for sustenance. Young girls in Mützen (bonnets) and long, flowered dresses, and boisterous boys looking like miniature versions of their parents trailed after them, drawn, it appeared, by some invisible string. To Mary, the scene was as familiar as the sunrise, but to an outsider the setting and period costumes, adopted from sixteenth-century peasants, would have seemed staged, as if the players were on a film set where a centuries-old story was about to unfold.

Peering through the window, Mary could have been taken for an actor waiting for her cue, but this was not a movie. This was life on the New Rosedale Hutterite Colony in southern Manitoba, and the one hundred men, women, and children who lived there were the cast of characters whose lives echoed those of their European ancestors of nearly five hundred years ago.

"Mein Himmel, eilt's! Good heavens, hurry up!" shouted Mary's brother-in-law, Paul Hofer, who was hastening his brood of children scattered throughout the house. Mary's sister, Sana, was the head cook, and she had been up since dawn over in the community kitchen, boiling choice cuts of beef for today's special noon meal and supervising the breakfast of boiled eggs, hot buttered toast, and plates of Schmuggi-soft, homemade cheese sprinkled with caraway seeds.

The thirteen Hofer children brushed past Mary to join the procession, and she shivered as a gust of crisp November air blew through the open front door. On an ordinary day she should have gone with them, but today was an exception. Today was her wedding day. After the morning Lehr church service, she would be making her formal vows of marriage, elevating her status from Diene, a young woman, to Weib, a wife, and increasing her worth and workload in the community.

The twenty-one-year-old started up the narrow wooden staircase to her bedroom, grateful for the seven years of shelter her sister had provided but eager to leave the overburdened household for a place of her own.

Until age thirteen, Mary had lived at the Old Rosedale Hutterite Colony sixty miles to the northeast, where her father, the well-respected Joseph Maendel, was the manager of the largest and most successful colony in Manitoba. It was to him that many other colonies had come for financial assistance. Old Rosedale's prosperity was rooted in its diversity and in its management.

Joseph Maendel had been a shrewd administrator, ensuring that the colony made an enviable profit from its field crops and livestock. In 1931, a devastating drought year for most prairie farmers, Old Rosedale's income was a princely $60,000 from grain and other enterprises. These included 900 hogs, 250 geese, several hundred cattle and sheep, and an apiary that produced 40,000 pounds of honey a year.

His devoted wife, Katrina, was the head gardener and special cook for the sick, but when she died suddenly of a gallstone attack at age forty-five, she left a husband and colony in shock, and sixteen children, including one-year-old Mary, without a mother.

A devastated Joseph Maendel poured out his grief in a letter to his sister-in-law at the James Valley Colony.

Oh dear sister-in-law, it was very, very sad for us to be hit like this. We stared in disbelief as our desperately needed and precious mother lay dead in front of our eyes. Her sister Rebecca cried out loud, "Oh Almighty God, how can you take a mother like that out of this house!" But nothing helped. Our dear mother was in eternity with God. I told our daughters and all the children, "Let's diligently pray to God so that no other calamity should befall us." How sad it would be if I, their father, couldn't be with them anymore either. We hope and beg and pray that the Almighty God will have mercy on all widows and widowers and their orphans.

A year after his wife's death, Joseph Maendel began to write to mature, eligible women and widows from other colonies to secure a mother for his younger children. After a handful of rejections, Rachel Gross, a widow with six children from the Maxwell Hutterite Colony, agreed to marry him, enlarging his family to twenty-two. Despite her best efforts, mild-mannered Rachel simply wasn't able to adequately nurture so many children, and Mary, left in the care of her older sisters, clung to her father, who gave what parental love and grounding he could.

Two years later the blended family was dealt a dreaded blow when fifty-year-old Joseph was diagnosed with intestinal cancer and underwent major surgery in Winnipeg. He was a steadying influence during times of turbulence at Old Rosedale, and his illness threatened the political stability he had worked so tirelessly to forge within the community. As the ravages of the disease drained his energies, Marilein, or "Little Mary," was often turned away from his bedside. One warm afternoon in September, as she was out playing in the bluffs of trees that surrounded the colony, she felt a sudden compulsion to go home and found the adults in an upheaval. "Where have you been?" they cried. "We've been looking everywhere for you!" Her father had wanted to say goodbye to her, but she had come too late. Overcome, the young girl buried her hands in her face and cried.

At age five, Mary was essentially an orphan. In succession, her three adult sisters-Sana, Anna, and Katrina-married, and each time was like losing her mother all over again as she was shuffled off to the care of the next sister. She escaped from her loss during the day when she could run and play in the vast open areas of the colony, and in the late afternoons when she would take a little stick and join the other children in rounding up the community's geese from the riverbank. Each of the ten families at Old Rosedale was in charge of seven geese, and Mary loved to shoo the Maendel geese home so they could lay their eggs in the wooden nests her father had built around their house. She knew each of them by name and could tell exactly which ones belonged to her family.

During the day she was always occupied, but at night, alone in her bed, she couldn't suppress the ache of loneliness that lingered in the pit of her stomach. She longed for her mother and tried to envision her face, to remember the smell of her skin and the safety of her arms. Under her covers, she practiced saying Muetter, or "Mother," out loud to the darkness. But then the tears would start, and every time she cried like that, she'd see a vision of her mother, Katrina, at the end of the bed, holding a lighted candle. Every night Katrina would come to her daughter this way, but the small child became so frightened she couldn't fall asleep. It was only after she willed herself to stop yearning for her mother that the haunting visitations ended.

After Joseph Maendel's untimely death, a change in leadership ignited years of smoldering conflicts within the community. His oldest sons had hoped one of them would replace their father as colony manager, but when they were outvoted by the Waldner and Hofer families, the bitterness escalated until the two factions could no longer live together. In the summer of 1944, Mary's brothers decided to leave Old Rosedale to establish a new colony in southern Manitoba. They named it New Rosedale and took most of their extended families and supporters with them. Thirteen-year-old Mary and her two teenage brothers, Darius and Eddie, became part of their sister Sana's household.

It was from the relative safety of Sana's house that Mary first laid eyes on Ronald Dornn. "Der g'hört mein! He's mine!" she wisecracked to her teenage nieces as they peered out of an upstairs window. She was eighteen years old and had a quick wit and a devilish sense of humor. "We'll tell him you said that!" the girls teased, but she knew they lacked the courage to follow through on their threat. Down below, the wiry frame of a handsome stranger emerged from the colony vehicle onto the sandy soil of the Assiniboine River valley. It was obvious from his square, black hat, lovingly referred to as the "washtub," that he was from the Lehrerleut in Alberta, one of three distinct sects of Hutterites in North America.

The cultural and religious differences between the three groups were minor, confined more to dress code than religious principles. To an outsider the discrepancies would hardly be discernible, but to the Hutterites they were so significant that intermarriage between the groups was rare. The Dariusleut in Saskatchewan were committed to simple buttons on their shirts and jackets, but the Schmiedeleut in Manitoba, which included New Rosedale, considered buttons too flashy, and opted for invisible hooks, eyes, and snaps. The Lehrerleut were the most conservative, insisting the zipper of a man's pants be at the side rather than the front, in case some unmindful man forgot to zip up. All three groups did agree on one thing: pockets on the back of a man's pants were far too worldly. Store-bought pants with "ass pockets" were strictly off-limits.

The new visitor from the Lehrerleut created significant excitement in the community, and people looking out of their large picture windows wanted to know which colony in Alberta he was from, how long he was staying, and why he was here. To the great surprise of no one, Mary's sister had had a hand in orchestrating his visit. Sana Hofer was known to everyone as Sana "Basel," or "Aunt" Sana, and her congenial nature was legendary. No one would think it out of the ordinary to find some new lodger sleeping on a cot in her living room or safely tucked beneath the kitchen table, out of the way of perpetual foot traffic.

Fate had introduced Sana Basel and Ronald in the summer of 1949 at the Rockport Hutterite Colony in Alberta. Her clout as head cook had earned her a once-in-a-lifetime trip to pay a social call to some of the Lehrerleut colonies in the province, including Rockport. Ronald, on the other hand, had spent his youth at the Rockport Colony and had just returned for the first time in seven years to discuss his family's future with the colony minister.

When Ronald confided to Sana that in a few days he would be taking the train back east to an uncertain future, she didn't waste any time rearranging his schedule. "Come for a visit to New Rosedale Colony in Manitoba," she insisted in her charming way. "Give us a call from the train station in Portage la Prairie, and we'll come to get you." Gostfrei Sana Basel was beguiling and had a heart for those whose lives were troubled with ambiguities and indecision. Ronald found himself drawn to the open face and loving manner of this forty-year-old woman who embodied the warmth and caring of a mother and comfort of an old friend. She made him feel cherished, and he hadn't felt that way in a long time. Her compelling invitation was hard to resist.

Once home in New Rosedale, Sana Basel soon received word that her visitor had arrived at the station and quickly dispatched her husband, Paul "Vetter," or "Uncle" Paul, and son Paul Jr. to fetch him. They returned in time for Lunschen, three o'clock lunch, the only time families ate together in their own homes. When Ronald entered the house, Sana Basel's face lit up and she greeted him enthusiastically, pulling out a chair for him and taking his hat from his hand.

"Reinhold, sog wos! Ronald, say something!" Sana said eagerly as she handed the hat to one of her daughters. He was suspected of having heard or seen particular things of interest since he had just traveled across several provinces, and she expected to be entertained. Sana Basel's raised eyebrows were poised for a juicy tidbit of almost any sort, but her visitor proved a disappointment in the gossip department. Ronald preferred to listen rather than be heard and didn't seem to appreciate the fine Hutterite tradition of Tschelli draufschmieren, "adding jam" to an unexceptional story. Some would have called him Maulvoll or "mouth lazy"-too sparing with his words to be considered entertaining-but in the secluded Hutterite world, his mere presence invited curiosity.

The Hofer boys drifted in from their farm chores, and a handful of regulars stopped by to fraternize and to inspect the strange man in the "English" leather jacket and the black lamb's-wool hat. Mary piled gingersnaps and oatmeal cookies on two Dura-Ware plates and placed them in front of the visitor with the steel-blue eyes and thick, auburn hair, neatly parted down the middle. Back behind the safety of the steaming kettle, she noted that he could use a new pair of pants. She watched Ronald dip the tip of his tablespoon into the jar of honey, tasting it before stirring the rest into his hot cup of chamomile tea. She observed the methodical way he tidied the cookie crumbs on the heavily varnished wooden table, cupping them into his left hand and placing them on his plate. Mary secretly wished she could have served him something better. The fresh lemon pies piled high with meringue and Queen Elizabeth cakes portioned out on Thursday, the colony's baking day, hadn't lasted the weekend at the Hofer house. With seven beautiful daughters who attracted their fair share of interest from eligible Buben (young men), Sana Basel's house was always a gathering place, filled with young people who would convene every evening to socialize and sing.

Ronald came for a week and stayed for good. Sana Basel's crowded quarters became his retreat and she a surrogate mother who sympathized with his inner struggles. He lived in a room upstairs with the Hofer boys while Mary lived across the hall, in the girls' room with her nieces. Mary cleaned his room and made his bed every day, but there was never a hint of romance. The only evidence to suggest any concern for his welfare was that she had repaired his tattered pants and left them neatly folded on his bed.

Ronald was consumed with the plight of his father and siblings back in Ontario. His Russian-immigrant parents had joined the Rockport Hutterite Colony in Alberta when he was nine years old, and the family lived there for almost a decade. But when Ronald was seventeen, Christian Dornn had cut his ties with the Hutterite Church, gathered his eight children, and joined a Hutterite-wannabe community in eastern Canada. The mission and the move were disastrous, as the leader turned out to be a dictator who treated the people in his commune abusively and harshly. When Ronald met Sana Basel, he was on a mission to bring his beleaguered family back to the Rockport Colony, but his hopes were dashed when the colony minister bluntly informed him that he and his siblings were welcome, but their father was not.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from I Am Hutterite by MARY-ANN KIRKBY Copyright © 2010 by Mary-Ann Kirkby. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Arvel Gray xi

A Short History of the Hutterites xv

Prologue xix

Chapter 1 "Der G'hört Mein!": "He's Mine!" 1

Chapter 2 Die Hochzeit: The Wedding 17

Chapter 3 "Du Sei Der Gute": "You Be the Good One" 37

Chapter 4 Tea Bags and Sugar Lumps 53

Chapter 5 Renie 69

Chapter 6 Die Teacherin; The Teacher 87

Chapter 7 Secret Flowerpot 107

Chapter 8 Weglaufen: Running Away 127

Chapter 9 Our Year at Dahl's Farm 143

Chapter 10 Rogers' Farm 173

Chapter 11 A Place of Our Own in Plum Coulee/Winkler 199

Epilogue 227

Afterword 231

Acknowledgments 233

Family Tree 236

Hutterisch: Hutterite Language Glossary 239

Bibliography 243

Hutterite Sucre Pie 245

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 45 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 11, 2010

    Interesting Read!!!

    Well first things first, I have to admit that I had never heard of the Hutterites. I have for the most part always been fascinated with the Amish and the Menonites, but I had no idea that there were Hutterites. And while not exactly the same, they also live in communities and have similar beliefs.

    You can read more about them here.

    When the opportunity arose to reviews this book, I was excited, I love learning about different religions and cultures and ways of life and I was not prepared for how much I would enjoy this book.

    It did start a little slow and it was a bit confusing at times because the author uses a lot of the German language throughout the book, but I quickly overcame that and just sat back and totally lost myself in these wonderful people. They live simply and though at the time the author lived in the community they weren't much into the modern technology, I have since then read about how nowadays they do enjoy the things that everyone else does. Matter of fact, I found a great blog by a Hutterite lady, it's called "Pebbles in My Pocket".

    It was fun looking through her blog and seeing how the Hutterites live today and what has changed from the time the author's family and her as a child, lived as Hutterites.

    The book was very well written and it left me wanting to know more and see more, which I kind of did when I visited the authors website and watched this wonderful video she has posted.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2013

    Very interesting. A very good read.

    Book was informative and an easy read..

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2012

    A Good Read

    Having grown up in Montana and seeing Hutterites in the community, this book was an interesting glimpse into the beliefs, traditions and lives of the Hutterites. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about these people as I did.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 19, 2011

    Hutterites

    I live within 30 miles of 5 Hutterite colonies. We buy lots of garden produce from them. Closest one too us just lost two young men fighting coal bin fire, they have volunteer fire dept and help with other fire depts, this fire was at the colony. Prayers are needed as they deal with their loss.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 22, 2011

    A great read

    This book reads as easy as an amish fiction novel.

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  • Posted April 8, 2011

    Awesome!!!

    Loved this book. It wasn't what I thought it was going to be but still great.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2010

    I Am ... Not a Bad Book

    I Am Hutterite - by Mary-Ann Kirkby

    In this memoir, Mary-Ann Kirkby unfolds her memories of a childhood spent in a Hutterite colony, playing in fields with other children and collecting nuts and berries for colony pies, and the subsequent culture shock her family experienced upon joining the secular world. She also delves into her family history, revealing bits and pieces of Hutterite culture to the audience at large as she goes, and for the the most part, Kirkby paints an enchanting and, at times, painful tale.

    She begins with the story of her mother's shy introduction to her father and the mishaps of their early courtship, and then she moves on to her memories as a child wearing a cotton jumper in the 1960s. The Hutterite religion, a conservative religious sect invoking simple life reminiscent of the Amish, provides the backdrop of her story and seeps into the characters so that it defines their very being, permanently relegating them to the sweetly simple lifestyle of 19th century North America. As Kirkby recounts her memories, she offers readers a glimpse into a culture that time not only forgot but failed to notice altogether.

    Kirkby's story takes a turn for the dramatic when her father decides to leave her childhood colony and take his wife and band of children with him. She fills those chapters with details of loneliness and near starvation as she tells about her father's struggle for jobs, her mother's deep desire for friendship and her own ostracized experiences at school. Her sentences weave love, pain and hope throughout this memoir in well-crafted detail. If I could desire anything more in Kirkby's story, I would ask for an account of her intimate encounters with God and how he played into her life and personal theology. She talks about the Father when she discusses Hutterite doctrine, but she rarely talks to Him. Other than this, I Am Hutterite was completely enjoyable.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 10, 2010

    Not what I was expecting

    Although I was excited to read this book, I ended up terribly disappointed. More than half of the book focuses on not "the fascinating true story of a young woman's journey to reclaim her heritage," as the book's tagline reads, but of her family's historical and cultural roots. This does, of course, have an important role in the story Kirkby is telling, as the rich and deeply-rooted Hutterite culture is at the heart of her story. But there was so much emphasis on the past and so little on the transition in Kirkby's life after leaving her colony that I felt cheated. This book had the potential to be a much, much longer story, once where her transition from running away to adulthood is more fully developed. That's what bothered me the most, I think - the lack of development. Because when I was reading about the culture itself, and its traditions, and when I was reading about Kirkby's experiences with other kids, I was drawn in. But in the meantime, during the transitions and back story? I was totally lost.

    Overall, I'd say read this, but know that it might now be what you were expecting.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 1, 2010

    Are you a Hutterite?

    'Levi, - I begin, searching for the right words, - there is a little boy buried here. His name is Renie, and he is my brother.' (p. xxii)

    Levi is the son of Mary-Ann Kirkby, the author of I Am Hutterite, who asks his mother 'Are you a Hutterite?', and as all the questions of every child arrives without notice, so starts Mary-Ann's journey in the past. This book recounts her Hutterite family story.
    The Hutterite way of life and faith was born in the sixteenth century among several refugees from Switzerland, Germany, and Tirol. During the nineteenth century Hutterite people emigrates to the United States and Canada.
    Dornns family follows all the 'iron' rules of the colony where they live, but something happened to change everything. After several squabbles between the chief of the colony and Mary-Ann's father, the Dornns escaped from the colony toward an unknown world.

    Everybody has seen the movie 'Witness' a 1985 American thriller movie directed by Peter Weir and main character played by Harrison Ford. I think from this movie started all the curiosity about these communities. From Witness we know about Amish people, but almost everything is similar to the Hutterite colonies.
    Everybody has also studied at school the reformation movements of sixteenth century,
    but while reading this book we get to know the private life of a Hutterite colony, especially the feelings of these people, the meaning of their way of life, and their

    'way of looking at the world, and unmistakable candor'

    (p. 234)

    So I Am Hutterite enlightens about a world not included in the general globalization; it keeps you thinking about progress: Do we really need progress? Although Mary-Ann Kirkby admits and writes the inevitable call of the progress. About this ideas I'd like to quote a passage:

    'She wore neither makeup nor jewelry; both were forbidden. In a culture that stressed an inner adornment of the heart, her smile would be enough.' (p. 20)

    We have always thought about our world (the 'mainstream') full of freedom, but Mary-Ann surprisingly wrote:

    'I was the happy Hutterite girl, free from dress code and protocol of the English world.' (p. 175)


    The best parts: Chapter 5 Renie (pages 69-86) and the pages were Mary-Ann and her siblings play baseball against all the other classmates (p. 185).

    I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publisher as part of their Booksneeze.com book review blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, part 255.

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  • Posted July 30, 2010

    Very Enjoyable Book

    Mary-Ann Kirkby shares her heritage with us in her book I Am Hutterite. Kirky was born into a Hutterite family and grew up in the secluded colony in Canada until the age of ten. She recounts the fond memories of a childhood that was safe, secure, and predictable. However, for her parents, life was tense and full of conflict. Her parents moved their family out of the Hutterite community when she was ten where the transition into life outside the colony was difficult and overwhelming. Even after moving away, the author recalls feeling deeply connected to her Hutterite family and friends.

    This story gave me a special glimpse into a world that is very different from the one in which I live. In some ways I love the predictability, security, and connectiveness that their colony portrays. Yet, I would have a very hard time losing my freedom and individuality. I can learn much from the Hutterites about commitment, hospitality, and living simply. This book was a very enjoyable read!

    I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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  • Posted July 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent Read

    I Am Hutterite
    The fascinating true story of a young woman's journey to reclaim her heritage.

    By Mary-Ann Kirby


    This book took me by complete surprise. I had never even heard of the word Hutterite, let alone know that it was a religious sect. Or that there were colony's of Hutterite's.

    Once I began to read this book I could not wait until the next page.
    The author gives us a history lesson as well as the understanding of what life was like, living in a Hutterite Colony. While it was a very structured environment, it was also one filled with love.

    Mary-Ann's father had butted heads with the senior minister more than once. One time he asked to borrow a vehicle so that they could get to the hospital and sign the papers needed for their son to have emergency surgery. They were denied and by the time they did get to the hospital it was to late to save their son's life.

    It was with much sadness that her father decided to leave the colony and moved into the English world. Yet he felt it was best for his family. Life was totally different for her family on the outside. They had many obstacles that they had never had before. Where once they never had to worry about where food,clothing or a place to live now they did.

    The change from Hutterite schools to English schools was hard for Mary-Ann and her siblings. English kids made fun of the way they dressed and even what they brought to eat for lunch. That left them with a longing to return to the colony.

    I have really enjoyed this book. I have learned about a way of life that I never knew existed. Some lessons that I think we could all benefit from today. And a wish that the author will someday continue on with her life story.

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  • Posted July 17, 2010

    Beautifully written memoir about life in a religious commune

    I Am Hutterite by Mary Ann Kirkby is a stunningly beautiful story of a woman's retracing her family's history to make sense of her life. The author spent the first ten years of her life living in a Hutterite community in Manitoba, Canada, like three generations of her family before her. The Hutterites are a religious group that live communal life with no personal property. With the motto: work makes life sweet, labor is a natural part of life for all ages. All money earned is contributed to the group and they even eat their meals together. They wear plain and simple clothing, and the women have distinctive headgear of polka-dotted handkerchiefs. Their life sounds intriguing and idyllic. Children are schooled from the age of 2-1/2 through eighth grade, and life has a strict order. When someone turns seventeen they begin working in the community and will do so until they are forty-five and then retire (!). Women who have given birth have another woman from the community come into the home and take care of them for several weeks, then a young girl is chosen to be the child's caretaker while the mother cares for the home, her responsibilities on the farm, and her family. It all sounds like a beautiful way to live, but as Mary Ann learned, if the leader of the group is a dictator, it can make life miserable. After repeated clashes with their leader, her father decided to uproot his family of seven children from the only life they'd ever known and try life in the real world. She and her siblings were forced to adapt to living without neighbors within shouting distance and going from feast-like meals three times to a day to scrounging for the necessities and eating cast-off produce. Her difficulties fitting in with her classmates eventually caused her to turn her back completely on her heritage until having a child made her re-evaluate. Kirkby has a stellar voice, and the reader is completely pulled into her world until in the end it feels like a terrible loss to have to say good-bye to the characters.

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  • Posted July 13, 2010

    Fascinating

    I Am Hutterite by Mary-Ann Kirkby published by Thomas Nelson Publishers is a true story of a woman tracing back her roots to life on a Hutterite Colony in Manitoba. There seems to be many misconceptions of who they are and what there values are; This book sheds some light on this mystery . This book gives you a glimpse into the colony as she chronicles her life, this book is not about getting the dirt on the Hutterites but about revealing an uncommon lifestyle of simplicity. I now have a greater appreciation for the life style they aim to lead with many principles that we could stand to learn from in common society.

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  • Posted July 11, 2010

    People who are into history and who are interested in reading autobiographies will find this book fascinating.

    In the book I Am Hutterite, Mary Ann Kirkby shares with us a glimpse of the reclusive and extraordinary Hutterite colony near Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. Hutterites are a communal branch of Anabaptists who trace their roots to the Radical Reformation of the 16th century.

    A memoir, I Am Hutterite chronicles Mary Ann Kirkby's own true story of the life on the Hutterite colony, adapting to popular culture, and her family's deep sense of loss for their community. It is also a story about retracing steps and understanding how ones beginnings often define them.

    People who are into history and who are interested in reading autobiographies will find this book fascinating.

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  • Posted July 10, 2010

    I Am Hutterite

    Mary-Ann Kirkby shares her recollections about life growing up on a Hutterite Colony in Canada with amazing candor and explicit detail. This book is an autobiography of her life and experiences inside the colony as well as her struggles adjusting to life in the outside world. I was transported through time and actually felt like I was experiencing the journey with her.

    Personally, I was inspired by the benefits of colony life and the longings that I have for simpler times was revisited. While I was able to recognize the many benefits of colony life and simpler times, light was also shed on the difficulties and challenges that were to be had sharing all things in common.

    I Am Hutterite was an absolutely fascinating read for me. From the very first moment that I picked up the book, I was drawn into the story and held captivated. This was a well constructed story and I would highly recommend this book as I found it to be an excellent read.

    I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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  • Posted July 2, 2010

    Good Read

    I had no expectations as I started reading this book. It is, at its core, a biography of a family and a religion, something I never would have chosen to read. But I did, so I dove in, mind open.

    The cover photo was compelling to me, especially since as I read the book, I realized it was the (self-described) wide girl all grown up. And also, the outfit she was wearing on the cover was not completely following in the Hutterite guidelines (it was too form-fitting). I knew there had to be a reason... and I wanted to keep reading to learn the answer.

    Overall it was a good book. Not my favorite book, but I don't regret taking the time to read it. It was well written, but at times the author's attempts to over-describe left me confused. Instead of saying, for example, "he said," Kirkby would describe the man who spoke by what he was wearing or how he was standing. Interesting details, but they distracted too much from the original point - that he said something. Also, due to such an extensive family history, I would preferred to have the family tree that I found in the back of the book, in the front.

    What resonates with me the most are the stories of life on the Hutterite colony. Hutterites live in colonies - mostly in Canada - and all their wealth and posessions are shared. Their lives are scheduled around meals and work and by the rotating job each member of the group has on any given week. Also, life cycle ritutals were fascinating to read about. When a woman has a baby, the entire colony pitches in to help care for the siblings, the baby, clean, cook. Funerals seem like any other funerals except for the part about the deceased taking up residence in the family home for up to a week, depending on the time it takes to make arrangements for burial. Weddings are attended by the entire colony and the bride sews her own colored dress for the ceremony. Dating is against Hutterite rules so when two Hutterites marry, it is practically arranged. When a family or individual leaves the colony for a life outside of the Hutterites - as they called it, English life - it is a controversy that often manages to quickly make its way to the other Hutterite colonies.

    It was fascinating stuff, all of it. I am glad I was able to learn about these people and their beliefs. Overall, I would recommend this book to someone who wanted to learn about another religion, culture and way of life, all the while reading a story about a girl growing up and into herself.

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  • Posted June 30, 2010

    Review, I am Hutterite.

    My first book from booksneeze.com. To say that this book was GOOD, would be putting it mildly.

    First thoughts, the cover doesn't exactly catch my eyes. BUT, after reading it - the words captivate my soul. The story flows like butter on a warm flaky biscuit. Easy peasy read. The kids could have burned the house down and I would still be reading about New Rosedale and having breakfast with the community.

    What is a Hutterite? A quick blurb...Originating in the Austrian province of Tyrol in the 16th century, the forerunners of the Hutterites migrated to Moravia to escape persecution. There, under the leadership of Jakob Hutter, they developed the communal form of living based on the New Testament books of the Acts of the Apostles (Chapters 2 (especially Verse 44), 4, and 5) and 2 Corinthians-which distinguishes them from other Anabaptists such as the Amish and Mennonites. You can find out more about them here.



    The author retells her personal experience growing up in the Hutterite community. I for one, was intrigued by the glimpes that she gave of this secluded community. There traditions are unlike any that I have known and I am fascinated by their daily tasks, parenting, and courtship. Mary Ann Kirkby takes you on a ride through the Hutterite life. She tells of daily living, a terrible tragedy and even different conflicts of living in such community. The author captures your attention while they make their way out of the Hutterite community and into our world.

    I would recommend this book without even thinking. It was a pleasure to read. :) Thumbs UP UP UP Mary Ann Kirkby!

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  • Posted May 29, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Memoir that reads like a novel

    What's it about? I Am Hutterite is Mary-Ann Kirkby's memoir of living in a Hutterite colony, following her parents off of the colony when she's 10, and later rediscovering her roots as an adult. The book starts with family history, telling the story of how Mary-Ann's parents met & started their family. From there we learn about what life was like in the Hutterite community, what it was like to leave the colony and adjust to non-Hutterite living, and the struggle to put the pieces of her heritage together.


    What did I think? I found this book fascinating. I knew nothing about the Hutterite community, but based on the cover (yes, I am admitting to judging a book by its cover) I thought that it must something akin to the Amish community. While there are some similarities between the two, they should not be confused as one and the same. Hutterites live communally in colonies in the Northwestern US and Canada, sharing food and money. The beginning of the book was a little slow, as Kikby thoughtfully gives background on both the Hutterites and her family beginnings. The pace picks up when we see things through Kirkby's eyes. At times, I actually had to remind myself that I was reading non-fiction because the characters and plot play out much like a novel which speaks to Kirkby's storytelling.


    Disclosure: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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  • Posted May 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    "I am Hutterite" : The Fascinating True Story of a Young Woman's Journey to reclaim Her Heritage By Mary-Ann Kirkby, published by Thomas Nelson.

    I really don't know what I can say about this book which will do it justice. Like the Amish, the Hutterites are Anabaptists , but unlike them, Hutterites live communally and worship in Church buildings as opposed to homes.

    I read this book from cover to cover and could not bear to put it down till I had finished it. I smiled, I laughed, I wept on one or two occasions, but I did find the whole book enjoyable. Admittedly, the pace of the story was a little slow to begin with, particularly when the author was "fleshing out" the background details of her family history, but I know from my own experience how hard it can be to make such information as interesting and absorbing to others as it is to us......... but it very soon picked up when the author started to write about her own memories and her life on the colony.
    The details of everyday life are myriad, and in many ways it appears to have been an almost idyllic childhood, apart from the needless and tragic death of her little brother due to an elder's apparent intransigence and desire to impose his authority over Mary-Ann's parents. The minister does not come over particularly well in this memoir, and I did wonder how much of the author's grief over the loss of her young brother when she herself was very small has coloured her portrayal of the Minister, who was also her uncle. Her parents did forgive her uncle, but he appears to have been unrepentant about the tragedy till his deathbed.
    Life was very structured and followed a rigorous routine which would be very alien to most of us "Englisch". I would love to know whether things are still the same now on a Hutterite colony, and how much influence the modern world has had on their way of life. I really enjoyed the snippets of dialogue written in Hutterisch, the original Carinthian Austrian dialect which the Hutterites have preserved for their everyday speech amongst themselves. Not all the dialogue was fully "translated" into English, and I was glad of my own basic knowledge of German to give me a helping hand in translating it word for word, though the gist of the sentence was always made reasonably clear by the context and the phrases that had been introduced earlier in the text.
    The difficulties she and her family faced when they chose to leave the colony when she was ten years old and live in the outside word are described in riveting and heartbreaking detail. I cannot begin to imagine how hard they must have found it, but they endured, eventually prospered and appeared to have found contentment in their lives.
    It would have been lovely if the author could have written more about how she found her Hutterite background influencing - or not influencing - her adult life, and the book did seem to end rather abruptly, which was a pity. Maybe she could write another one ?
    This book has been an absolute revelation for me, and I have to say, this has been the best book (in any subject category) I have read in 2010.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> :"Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertis

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  • Posted May 27, 2010

    A touching Memoir

    This is a wonderful memoir that Mary-Ann Kirkby has written. Living near a Hutterite Colony in Alberta, I have always wanted to know more about the Colony and she has given me a wonderful sense of the community that she was a part of. My heart went out to her and her family when they left the Colony for various reasons. I also really felt for her as she tried and tried to fit into the "English" world. Her world was turned upside down, but through it all she still found her sense of self...and that included her growing up as a Hutterite. This book is informative and touching all at the same time. Anyone who wants to read this book to get a better sense of the type of close community that a Hutterite Colony has and the extremely close ties that are developed from a young age, this book would do you good. My only thing that I did not like, was the very quick ending to the book before the epilogue. Otherwise, I very much enjoyed this book. My favorite part of the book that I wish was a part of our "English" world...is the nap time that the whole colony takes part in!!! That would be awesome!!!

    As per FTC regulations, I have recieved this book as a complimenty copy as part of their book review program.

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