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This collection of Mennonite thinking by some of their most perceptive writers, poets, and sages is, above all, honest and, occasionally, wistful.
Includes fiction, humor, thoughtful essays about identity, book reviews, film capsules, and international features.
Pointed and powerful, the book is a window into the soul of a people who intend to live with integrity, but are candid about the trouble it can be!
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We are pleased to present this collection for your consideration and enjoyment. Our goal has been to create an annual, containing some of the best current Mennonite writing and thinking.
"Mennonite" can mean faith, as accepted by certain groups of Christians who claim that name (Amish and Brethren are related groups). "Mennonite" can also bring to mind any of a variety of ways of life. This conversation/tension between faith and life forms the backdrop for many of the pieces in this collection.
Writings were selected on the basis of both content and style. For many pieces, this marks their first publication. All others, to qualify, were published since January 1, 1996.
Writers were eligible if they: a) are current members of a Mennonite-related group, or b) have had a significant interaction of many years with a Mennonite-related group, or c) deal with Mennonite-related material in a compelling way.
We hope readers of many backgrounds will enjoy this volume, including readers among our various Mennonite-related groups.
-- Merle Good and Phyllis Pellman Good, Editors
Featured Articles, Essays, and Opinions, I
Race-related, by Anne Berry
"Have you ever been called a nigger?" my friend Jodi asked me.
"No," I said. "What does that mean?"
"I'm not really sure, but there's a little black girl at my school and people call her that sometimes."
I had been at Jodi's house after church, playing. I was only seven or eight years old, and what she said to me did not have much significance at the time. Yet, I will never forget the conversation. I was puzzled as to why she posed the question in the first place. How was I associated with some other girl being called a "nigger"? The word did not mean anything to me simply because I had never heard it used before.
The conversation I had at Jodi's house that day was certainly not a traumatic experience. However, the incident has put a definite time and place in my memory of my first run-in with the concept of racism. I do not remember my parents ever sitting down with my brother and sister and me to explain that we were "different." It was unnecessary. As I grew older, I learned that "nigger" was a derogatory term and that bigotry was "bad." The two words were part of something called racism, and society was the culprit who forced me to deal with it. I gradually caught on to the idea that I was inevitably stuck somewhere in the middle of the whole mess.
Growing up in a family with a black father and a white mother never seemed out of the ordinary to me. I had a typical childhood and was raised in a typical home. I value the way my parents brought up Joe, Malinda, and me. They made sure all three of us were treated as fairly as possible and given the same opportunities as everyone else. We attended a private Mennonite high school as well as a private Mennonite college. We grew up in a safe and nurturing environment. We took swimming lessons and piano lessons just like our friends. I now find myself expecting to be treated like everyone else, whether or not I happen to be a few shades darker. By giving the general population the benefit of the doubt and assuming I will be treated equally, I have more confidence in my own ability to succeed in the world. It is not an issue of ignoring the racism which exists all around me, but refusing to let it dominate my outlook on life, and refusing to view all whites as individuals who are racist by nature.
Unfortunately for me, the problem is not as simple as I often like to make it appear. Classification of a person's race is frequently dependent upon her skin color, probably because it is the easiest way to categorize her. Referring to a person as "white," "black," or "Asian," does not leave room for exceptions. Juxtaposed, identity is not altogether cut-and-dried; it is not based solely on skin color. A person's behavior and mannerisms contribute to her identity as well. People who fall between specific groups are tossed around, attempting to find where they "fit in" socially and culturally.
I saw this issue of cultural identity reflected in society and the media before being aware that it applied to my own life. I was watching "Oprah" one day when she happened to have guests on her show who dated people of different races. Some black members of the audience praised and complimented the white guests who were attracted to black women or men. There was a young black woman, however, who said that she found white men more attractive because she had grown up in a predominantly white setting. This woman was verbally torn apart by some of the same black audience members, who treated her as if she was some sort of "traitor" to her own race. I was incensed. Granted, it had only been a talk show, but the attitudes of some of the people in the audience were frightening. Why was a white man who was consciously in pursuit of black women more acceptable than a black woman who happened to be attracted to white men due to the environment she was raised in? I was struck by the realization that racism is elusive because it manifests itself in a variety of forms, some more recognizable than others.
Table of ContentsTable of Contents
A. Featured Articles, Essays,and Opinions, I
1. Race-related by Anne Berry
The writer examines her own attitudes (and those of others) towards her background and heritage, a mix and swirl of white Mennonite and African American.
2. Tea Parties and Peacemakers by James C. Juhnke
Philadelphia handled its Tea Crisis of 1773 less violently than Boston did.
3. Scratching the Woodchuck: Nature on an Amish Farm by David Kline
A farmer reflects on observing the natural world.
4. "Center of Gravity" Now in the South by Marshall V. King
For the first time, there are more Anabaptist-related Christians in the southern part of the globe than in the north.
5. An Apple Tree, Or Mango by Shirley Kurtz
6. Women Against the Good War: A Summary by Rachel Waltner Goossen
Mennonite women made a variety of contributions to the conscientious objector role during World War II.
7. Beyond the Blushes of Song of Songs by Valerie S. Weaver
The Mennonite church faces a dilemma with its literary artists.
B. Short Fiction, I
1. The Fourth Door, a short story by Sarah Klassen
C. By the Editors
1. Guerillas in Community by Phyllis Pellman Good
Some observations about power, authority, and the church community.
2. Affluence and Edfluence by Merle Good
Reflections on the parallels between the accumulation of formal education and degrees and the accumulation of material goods and property-and the ever elusive search for wisdom and humility.
D. Poetry, I
1. Driving West on Easter by Jeff Gundy
2. On This Earth by Juanita Brunk
3. Rough-Cut Head by Keith Ratzlaff
4. The Tragedy by Kate Good
5. The Water Table, There It Is by Janet Kauffman
6. For Trudy, My Aunt by Barbara Nickel
7. Ceremony by Raylene Hinz-Penner
8. In Ascension Day's Wake by Regina Weaver
E. Featured Articles, Essays, and Opinions, II
1. Excelsior by Warren Kliewer
In an autobiographical sketch from childhood, this writer, who invested a lifetime in drama, describes his early infatuation with "performance."
2. When Somalis Think of Canada, They Think "Safe and Secure"
by Mohamud Siad Togane
A Somali poet remembers a Mennonite missionary from Ontario against the backdrop of a Canadian controversy.
3. Wardrobes: Some Shopping Discoveries
When does the statute of limitations end on money saved at a sale? The author reflects on the quest for a complete, well-coordinated wardrobe.
4. Worshiping with the Early Anabaptists by John Oyer and Keith Graber Miller
In forests, caves, and barns: Anabaptists in the 16th and 17th centuries worshiped despite their fear of persecution, because worship gave them the collective spiritual energy to survive.
5. When I Am Old, I Want to Be an Elder, Not a Senior by Katie Funk Wiebe
Thoughts about growing older from a noted leader and writer.
6. Strawberry Jam by Freda Zehr
Guilt, and the urge to can and freeze.
7. Ana-Baptism by Scott Holland
The waters of baptism remind us that aesthetics precede ethics because the story of creation precedes the story of the church.
8. Erica by Ed van Straten
From The Netherlands-the courageous story of a woman who overcomes fate with faith.
1. A Wedding Sermon by Marcus Shantz
Jazz, cooking together, and quilting in the tradition of Ruth from Moab.
1. Home on the Range in Lancaster, Where One Buffalo Still Roams by Sam S. Stoltzfus
An Amish writer's humorous account of the attempts to capture one of Little Jake's buffalo bulls.
2. Some Lists by Craig Haas
-- Top Ten Reasons Mennonites Lack a Tradition of Football
-- Top Ten Ways the Old Testament Would Be Different If Mennonites Wrote it
-- Top Ten Four-Letter Words Mennonites Love
-- Top Ten Four-Letter Words Mennonites Hate
-- You're Really a Mennonite When . . .
3. A Murder Story by Merle Good
A short, one-person drama, detailing a big concordance, the search for peace, and a mousicide.
H. Short Fiction, II
1. Souls of the Caribbean Sun, a short story by Rafael Falcón
2. Dreams of Light, a short story by Gordon Houser
I. Poetry, II
1. Gladiolus by Keith Ratzlaff
2. A Buenos Aires Picture by David E. Leaman
3. Passing by Leonard N. Neufeldt
4. In the Museum of the My Lai Massacre by Barbara Nickel
5. Eve of Change by Kristen Mathies
6. My Big Sister by Christine Thomson
J. A Longer Essay
1. Reflections on 20 Years of Peacebuilding by Ron Kraybill
From Bosslers to Harvard to South Africa, a leading Mennonite voice on concilation and peace surveys two decades.
K. Book Reviews
1. A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue by Badru D. Kateregga and David W. Shenk; reviewed by Marlin Adrian
2. An Introduction to Old Order and Conservative Mennonite Groups by Stephen E. Scott; reviewed by Susan Fisher Miller
3. A Community of Memory by Jeff Gundy; reviewed by Shirley H. Showalter
4. No Longer Alone: Mental Health and the Church by John Toews with Eleanor Loewen; reviewed by Anne-Marie Klassen
5. I & II Thessalonians by Jacob Elias; reviewed by Charlotte Holsopple Glick
6. Anabaptist History and Theology: An Introduction by C. Arnold Snyder; reviewed by John. D. Roth
7. Prayer Book for Earnest Christians translated and edited by Leonard Gross; reviewed by Gerald Studer
8. From Martyr to Muppy edited by Alistair Hamilton, Sjouke Voolstra and Piet Visser; reviewed by Gerlof D. Homan
L. Film Ratings and Video Guide, 1995-1998 by Merle Good
Picking up where the Festival Quarterly Video Guide, 1974-1994 left off.
M. Our Sponsors
N. About the Editors