Monday, May 18, 2015

Called to Be Amish by Marlene C. Miller

Marlene C. Miller's book CALLED TO BE AMISH: My Journey from Head Majorette to the Old Order answers many of the questions we "English" have about the Amish.  First, the current Amish population is about 250,000 (and quickly growing). Second, non-Amish rarely convert. Miller says that another author has documented only about 75 outsiders who have joined Amish churches and remained members since the 1950s.

Marlene married her husband over 51 years ago and joined the Amish church 47 years ago.  You might think that she joined simply because she loved her husband, but that isn't the whole story.
Amish youth do not join the church until they feel called to do so.  Most join in their late teens or early twenties, and often make that decision once they start courting seriously. At least that is how our Old Order Amish neighbors do it. Before Amish teens commit to the church and therefore, the Amish life, they often have experience a little freedom.  In our area of Wisconsin, that freedom is quite limited, but I guess it is different in different areas.  And maybe the freedom was more expansive back in the late 1950s.  Johnny Miller, a young Amish teen met Marlene, a typical Ohioan girl, at the skating rink, and they quickly became a couple.  Johnny worked with non-Amish, played baseball with them, and even drove a car. Marlene liked his good looks, and his kind ways were a welcome reprise from her turbulent life at home.

It seemed that Marlene could do nothing good enough to please her mother, so when her mother voiced her displeasure over Marlene dating an Amish, it only made the young duo more committed.  When Marlene found out she was pregnant, Johnny agreed to marry her.  There is more to that part of the story, but I will leave that to Marlene to explain.  Just know that they did finally marry, and that meant that Johnny would always be an outsider to his family.

But after a few months, Johnny's family mentioned that they would welcome Marlene if the couple wanted to join the church.  Marlene felt a calling to do just that, and the couple began a three year process of instruction.  During that time, they left behind their modern ways -- the car and the truck were sold, they moved to a home without electricity, and Marlene began the life of an Amish wife.
Ten children and fifty-plus years later, Marlene has much to share about that journey.

Herald Press has published this title under the umbrella of the Plainspoken series.  As the publishers point out, the Amish corner a lot of interest, but what is presented as Amish life on television and even in well written fiction titles is far from accurate.  The Plainspoken series strives to give the Plain people (Amish, Mennonite, and Hutterite) an avenue for them to write their own stories.

I want to thank Herald Press and LitFuse for the opportunity to review this title.  


What’s it like to be one of the few outsiders to leave the Englisch way of life and join the Old-Order Amish—and stay? In Called to Be Amish, this rare memoir by Marlene C. Miller, she recounts her unhappy and abusive childhood, how she throws herself into cheerleading and marching band, and how she falls in love with Johnny, the gentle young Amish man who helps her lace her ice skates


Marlene C. Miller joined the Amish as an adult and has been a member of the Old Order Amish for almost 50 years. She and her husband of 48 years live on a farm in Ohio surrounded by their nine children, more than 40 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
Find out more about Marlene at

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