Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl by Marian Longenecker Beaman | Review

Mennonite Daughter, memoir, Mennonite childhood

Marian Longenecker Beaman’s memoir shares heartwarming vignettes of life in Lancaster County, PA. The author paints images with words of the joys and frustrations of growing up as a Mennonite. I visited Lancaster County several years ago. But I was not as aware of the Mennonites and their restrictions as I was of the Amish. So, some of Beaman’s revelations were surprising to me.
 
The author’s use of detail in descriptions of people and places brought them to life. Thus, the reader feels an actual part of what and where Beaman was describing. The inclusion of family photographs allowed the reader to “see” the life Beaman described.
 
Beaman’s family’s devotion to their Mennonite faith was unmistakable in all they did. I have known Beaman from her blog, Plain and Fancy, for several years. I was not surprised at the faith commitment. Yet, reading about Beaman’s baptism at age 10 took me quite by surprise. Everything changed for this young girl. The church’s rigid rules about dress, everyday activities, and schooling controlled her life. The little girl who wore frills and ruffles her Mennonite mother sewed had to put those dresses away. How conflicting this must have felt to her.
 
Beaman also writes of her father’s punishments and abuses. It is not uncommon for an abusive parent to declare his/her faith and to use Scripture as a basis for the punishment. I felt Beaman’s pain and heartbreak as I read her emotional words and desire to know why. Beaman was a strong young woman who stood up to the leaders in the church and to her father. Although she mentioned a fear of her father’s actions, she overcame that fear. What courage this took. 
 
Beaman has taken the opportunity to tell her true story. While telling of punishments and abuse, she reflects on the loving nature of her home life. The author shows respect and admiration for her mother. Yet, she questions the lack of intervention on her mother’s part at times.
 
She also expresses the love felt for her grandmother and Aunt Ruthie. In fact, one might say Beaman had two homes. There was a home filled with parents and siblings. And the home maintained by her grandmother and Aunt Ruthie. This second home was a place of escape where restrictions were a bit looser. Beaman enjoyed many happy days with their grandmother and Aunt Ruthie.
 
I enjoyed reading Beaman’s memoir and taking a trip back in time to Lancaster County, PA. The story is rich in family and one woman’s history with traditions and culture. Her shining moment is in her courage to take a step away to build her own life.
Beaman is a master storyteller and wordsmith. Her writing is fluid, detailed, expressive, and strong. I highly recommend this memoir not only to those who enjoy reading a memoir. But also to those who want to write or are writing a memoir. Beaman does it just right.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover


Mother had always said we could go to school if we wanted. We just had to ask Dad, she said. Then we could go. But I didn’t ask. There was something in the hard line of my father’s face, in the quiet sigh of supplication he made every morning before he began family prayer, that made me think my curiosity was an obscenity, an affront to all he’d sacrificed to raise me.

 
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover is a difficult and emotional story to read. Yet I could not put it down. Westover has a determination and grit about her that made me want to read her story. Many of us have lived a childhood of abuse in varying degrees. I suppose my own experience draws me to the stories of others who have suffered abuse as well.
 
Westover’s family lives off the grid in Idaho. Husband and father believes the government is out to get them. They must protect themselves. He keeps his family so isolated no one could get to them. It is how he ensures the children never learn the truth about their country.
 
Educated: A Memoir, Westover, bookMost of the seven children didn’t have birth certificates because they were born at home. There were no medical records for any of the family because they had never seen a doctor or been in a hospital. The children weren’t allowed to attend public school. Instead, they were “homeschooled” by their mother. They were taught to make survivalist kits and canned many jars of fruits. Exercises were practiced in case of an unexpected siege. Not the kind of education considered normal according to our country’s standards.
 
Westover learned midwifery and herbalism at her mother’s side. She also worked with her siblings in her father’s junkyard salvaging scrap metal. Often she dealt with various injuries resulting from the labor in the junkyard. Her parents didn’t believe in doctors and hospitals. Instead, they believed the power to heal rested in herbal tinctures and the Lord’s power.
 
One of Westover’s brothers leaves to attend Brigham Young University. She begins to see possibilities away from home. She begins to mentally question her father’s preaching against education, healthcare, and more. Despite her lack of education, Westover begins to study for the ACT exam. She also teaches herself math, grammar, and science. Westover hoped to get a score that would qualify her for admittance to BYU.
 
At age 17, Tara Westover begins her education. She has waited a lifetime for this experience. One example that sticks with me is a class in which the lecturer touches on the Holocaust. Westover had no idea what the Holocaust was. No one had ever mentioned it; no one in her family likely knew too much about it. This seems impossible in a country where an education is free for all.
 
Many have questioned the validity of Westover’s story. I believe we shouldn’t question another’s telling of their story. We each have a story to tell, and it is ours to tell as we remember it.
 
Tara Westover has done that. She has told her story of her childhood which left her uneducated and abused. Then she tells of passing the ACT and gaining admittance to BYU, on to Harvard, Cambridge, and beyond. It has taken determination and grit to do what Westover has accomplished.
 
If you enjoy memoir and/or autobiographical works, Educated may be a book you’d enjoy. Be prepared for the difficult portions. Throughout it all, Tara Westover has prepared herself for the woman she has become today.

Let’s Admit It: Our Words and Actions Impact Others

JUST WHAT DO I MEAN?

The featured image above holds the answer to this question. The word cloud contains many emotions experienced by those confronted with negative reactions. Perhaps in the form of words or even by threatened actions. Reading the emotions tells us what our words and actions may do to another.

Will Muschamp during his tenure at University of Florida
Will Muschamp during his tenure at University of Florida

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Let’s see how that works. Look at the image of Will Muschamp during his tenure as head football coach at the University of Florida.

The score of this game held Muschamp’s future. Muschamp’s facial expression defines his anger. And it’s not hard to see the object of his scorn.

WHY AM I WRITING ABOUT THIS?

We’ll get to that in a minute. First, another example I saw while watching an NCAA football game a couple of weeks ago. What I saw has stayed with me as it brought back memories of a painful childhood.

I searched online football news for a photo perhaps taken by a reporter or TV crew, but no luck. You’ll have to use your imaginations to bring the image to mind.

One of the two teams playing made a touchdown, and as usual, there was much celebration. As the offensive players made it to the sidelines, the offensive line coach was waiting. He expressed heated displeasure with his players. I couldn’t understand why.

As the young collegiate players took seats, the coach visibly berated them. His facial expressions, like those of Will Muschamp, revealed such anger it was frightening. His index finger did its share of chest jabbing. If faceguards had not been in place, I daresay he may have done more. Despite the touchdown, it seems some of his players had made a mistake in carrying out the play. The touchdown was forgotten in favor of berating his players.

As a child exposed to similar abuses, I looked on as these young men shrank on the TV screen. Still in full uniform and pads, their shoulders slumped and theirs heads hung low. They were experiencing many of the emotions in the word cloud above. I felt bad for them all, including the coach for his behavior.

IT’S NOT JUST IN SPORTS

I’m writing about this topic because it’s evident in all phases of our world. Today bullying runs rampant in so many places–the workplace, schoolroom, community activities, and organizations. Many relationships suffer the effects of bullying.

If we take a look around our daily lives, a short list becomes clear. We find it in professional workplaces, employer to employee, friendships, and among family members.

Take a look at why this happens. Usually it happens when a sense of competition, hierarchy, power, or control gets out of hand. Even in our community of writers, editors, coaches, and teachers it can happen.

How can this be you might ask? Among writers and those who support them or direct their paths?

I recently met with a writing coach. She requested I send the first ten pages of my manuscript for her review. Not to critique or edit, simply review. Despite knowing this, my nerves jangled as I headed toward the appointment. Rooted in my mother’s persistent negative reactions toward me, I anticipated a negative response.

Imagine my relief when the coach began our meeting with the words, “You’re a good writer.” Of course, there were topics addressed which needed work and I knew there would be. But she began our meeting on a positive note. It made all the difference in how I left the meeting.

A FEW THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • When critiquing another’s writing, do you jump on the most negative element in feedback? Or do you lead first with something positive?
  • When commenting on a blog post, do you immediately point out a grammatical error or an incorrect fact? Or do you first offer appreciation for the writer’s effort and time in posting?
  • When participating in a Google Hangout or Skype conversation, do you put others down? Or do you ignore whatever irritates you in a more private, less offensive way later?
  • Do you choose public forum vs. privacy to clear the air with a fellow writer, editor, coach, or teacher?
  • As adults, we no longer see the need to raise hands to speak. Yet, there is another way to avoid talking over each other and being rude. Be patient and wait for a break in the conversation and then speak. No reason to step on others’ toes and/or feelings.

This short list is only five examples of ways we can watch our own behavior. Sometimes, as the irate football coach did, we react too fast. In so doing, we reduce the other party to any of the several emotions in our word cloud. And we cast ourselves in the role of an abuser or bully.

Bullying isn’t found only among our children and youth. Adults have a handle on bullying too. It may be a carryover from a dysfunctional childhood. Perhaps a lack of self-respect from a feeling of unworthiness. Even jealousy plays a large role. As adults, we must set the example for children and youth.

Let’s try to make a difference by remembering these words:

“Words are containers for power. You choose what kind of
power they carry.”

~Joyce Meyer

Conflicted Hearts: A Daughter’s Quest for Solace from Emotional Guilt by D.G. Kaye

D.G. Kaye's memoir, Conflicted Hearts
D.G. Kaye’s memoir, Conflicted Hearts

Somehow I believed it was my obligation to try to do the right thing by her because she had given birth to me.Burdened with constant worry for her father and the guilt caused by her mother’s narcissism, D.G. Kaye had a short childhood. When she moved away from home at age eighteen, she began to grow into herself, overcoming her lack of guidance and her insecurities. Her life experiences became her teachers, and she learned from the mistakes and choices she made along the way, plagued by the guilt she carried for her mother.

Conflicted Hearts is a heartfelt journey of self-discovery and acceptance, an exploration of the quest for solace from emotional guilt.

(Synopsis and image via Goodreads)

Imagine feeling frustrated and powerless in a situation you’re desperate to resolve. When you’re a child, that angst multiplies immensely because you are only that–a child. You have no power to speak out about what you’re feeling, and neither are you permitted to ask questions that might soothe your inner turmoil, because the cause of your dilemmas are adult matters that apparently shouldn’t concern you. ~ D.G. KayeConflicted Hearts

My Thoughts:

At the beginning of Chapter 8 of Conflicted Hearts , the same chapter from which the above quote is taken, D.G. Kaye writes the following:

We are the products of our parents. How can they teach us what they didn’t know?

Likely, these words resonate with more than one reader with parents from the same generation as Kaye’s.

The author’s fluid writing style and storyteller’s voice gives the reader a sense of sitting down over a steaming cup of coffee or tea with a friend. The friend begins to tell you what life was like for her as a child. You sit in disbelief, wondering how this positive, strong, loving woman lived through the parenting received at the mind and hands of her mother.

Yet, our author and friend lives with a guilt burdening her for far too long. This is the skin she wants to shed–the skin of her guilt feelings. It appears to this reader nothing has been D.G. Kaye’s fault with respect to her mother and her mother’s behavior. The guild is just another layer applied like frosting on a cake. Only this isn’t frosting. It isn’t sweet, and it leaves an acid taste in your mouth.

D.G. Kaye is not ashamed nor abashed about telling her story and sharing it with those willing to read. Her truthful memories will unfasten for others the doors to walk through to the other side of life. Life filled with love, happiness, and respect.

Thank you to the author for the gift of her words.

My Recommendation:

I highly recommend this book for anyone who lived through an emotionally and verbally abusive childhood, one like D.G. Kaye’s. Remember, you are not the one at fault, and reading Kaye’s memoir will help you understand that.

Conflicted Hearts: A Daughter's Quest for Solace from Emotional Guilt

Book Details:
Publisher: D.G. Kaye
Published: January 9, 2014
Kindle Edition: 202 pages
ASIN: B00HDTPPUQ

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Conflicted Heartsfrom the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Conflicted Hearts is available for purchase at the following booksellers:*

*Please read about Affiliate Links under the Disclosure tab above.

Meet D.G. Kaye:

Author D.G. Kaye
Author D.G. Kaye

D.G. Kaye is a nonfiction writer of memoirs about her life experiences, matters of the heart and women’s issues. She began writing when pen and paper became tools to express her pent-up emotions during a turbulent childhood. D.G.’s writing began as notes and cards she wrote for the people she loved and admired when she was afraid to use her own voice. D.G. journaled about life, and her opinions on people and events. She later began writing poetry and health articles for a Canadian magazine as her interest was piqued by natural healthcare.

Becoming interested in natural healing and remedies, D.G. began reading extensively on the subject after encountering quite a few serious health issues—family and her own. Against many odds, Kaye has overcome adversity several times throughout her life.

Kaye began writing books to share her stories and inspiration. She looks for the good and the positive in everything and believes in paying it forward. “For every kindness, there should be kindness in return. Wouldn’t that just make the world right?”

Her favourite saying: Live. Laugh. Love …and don’t forget to breathe! is her website logo, to remind herself and others that we often forget to take a pause.

You can find D.G. on social media and her author and blog pages:

www.dgkayewriter.comwww.goodreads.com/dgkayewww.amazon.com/author/dgkaye7www.conflictedhearts.comwww.menowhatthememoir.com

www.twitter.com/@pokercubsterwww.facebook.com/dgkayewww.about.me/d.g.kaye.writer

(Image and bio via Goodreads)