Spiritual Seedlings

Nancy’s Comments on Mennonite in the Little Black Dress

November 20th, 2013


Nancy: I had heard about this book, but never read it when it came out.  When someone in our MAMs Book Club Springfield chose it, I was glad I finally would get around to reading it, because I identify with the Mennonites. In my 20s I met several Mennonites while working with the United Methodist campus ministry in Ames, Iowa.  Together we founded the Iowa Peace Network. Later, when I moved to San Antonio I joined a Mennonite church. I chose them for their teachings on nonviolence. I very much enjoyed their focus on church as primary, alternative community, and their tradition of simple living.


So when I first read Janzen’s book, I felt appalled that she would diss one of my favorite denominations. As a “non-ethnic” Mennonite, I could never achieve insider status. I could still engage in the “Mennonite Game” where you begin naming and finding other Mennonites acquaintances you hold in common, but I always knew I would never really be one of them.  This made me very sad, until I read Rhoda’s inside look. Now I realize there are advantages to being a Mennonite convert! I didn’t suffer some of the indignities she experienced, yet I still could call myself Mennonite.

The audacity of this woman though, I continued to think, as I read on. How could she? My beloved Mennonites — with such strong women and hard-working, kind men? Were they really as ridiculous and as human as all of that?

But soon I began laughing with her, as I observed the canvas she paints of the shadow side of my people, with great wit. What a wonderful writer! Each sentence brims with creative prose. Not hard to see she’s also a poet and English teacher.

Being an insider always seems to create a tendency to question the idiocyncracies of a given system. And within each faith tradition, passing the torch to younger generations is often a difficult process. Many times the flame goes out, as it may look very distorted to the young.

But as much as she decries her given tradition, I was especially taken with the great love she held for her bipolar, gay husband. She treated him reverently and seemed genuinely concerned for him. I could see her Mennonite upbringing shining through in her actions. Mennonites (and Christians) at their best are unconditional lovers, and I found her this way as she teaches me us how to love.

I’m looking forward to reading her next book where she rediscovers her faith and Mr. Right… Does this Church Make Me Look Fat?




Abigail’s Comments on Mennonite in the Little Black Dress

November 20th, 2013



 Abigail: I am taken with Rhoda’s great love. Although she fights the trappings of her ethnic Mennonite upbringing, I believe her compassion for her husband and others springs from the deep well of her tradition; from the heart of God.

Jane’s Comments on Mennonite in the Little Black Dress

November 20th, 2013



 Jane: Now here is a woman with resolve. She obviously has quite a gift in the literary area, and kudos to her for getting her PhD,  and then writing her way out of a difficult time caused by a bad accident and her husband’s defection to the other gender. I appreciate people who make the most of a bad situation and here you go.  This book has sold over a million copies. My hero! Another female millionaire.



Katharine’s Comments on Mennonite in the Little Black Dress

November 20th, 2013



Katharine: I laughed so much when I read this book. I think she has a future as the Garrison Keilor of the Mennonites. It reminded me of some of the idiosyncracies of the Lutherans in Minnesota where I come from. Laughing at your self and your roots can be very healing, as she discovered in her memoir of going home.

Molly’s Comments on Mennonite in the Little Black Dress

November 20th, 2013




 Molly: I love this creative nonfiction genre of memoir.  It’s becoming more popular. I tried my hand at it a few years ago, and I want to do more. Story is what each of us have to share with the world. Janzen does it very well. She inspires me to try again. Maybe the MAMs could all do some writing of this sort sometime! Wouldn’t that be fun to share stories with each other?

Priscilla’s Comments on Mennonite in the Little Black Dress

November 20th, 2013



 Priscilla:  I loved the way she included recipes in this book.  I want to try them out! I’ve never had borscht before, or persimmon cookies! But, I don’t approve of some of the content of this book and the lifestyles. Seems she’s strayed quite a way from her Christian upbringing.  

Sallie’s Comments on Mennonite in the Little Black Dress

November 20th, 2013

SallieSallie: Well, being an “ethnic Church of the Brethren” body, I get this book. I found it hilarious, too. An inside look is often different than a gaze from the outside. She breaks the rules, and I find myself enjoying her immensely. When you grow up in a closed system, you either smother yourself or you go outside the box. Rhoda’s lived an authentic life. I like her.