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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
From a random review:

  

« Rimington, Stella: At Risk | Main | Winspear, Jacqueline: Pardonable Lies »

Shachtman, Tom: Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish

  

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North Point Press © 2006, 286 pages [amazon]
4.5 stars

When they turn 16, children who have been raised among the Old Order Amish experience a curious coming-of-age ritual, the rumspringa--or "running around"--a period during which they are given license to experience the conveniences and temptations, previously forbidden them, of mainstream, "English" society. Amish youth in rumspringa can dress like their mainstream contemporaries, and they can drink and smoke and date and party, and some of them engage in such behaviors with dangerous abandon. Some of the rumspringa parties attended by Amish youth differ little from those thrown by non-Amish teenagers: sex and drugs and rock and rap, vomiting and sleeping in, unplanned pregnancies. The Amish, that is--and this is something I would never have dreamt I could say prior to reading this book--are, some of them, too wild for this reviewer. Other Amish youth, perhaps most, are more restrained in their rumspringa explorations, confining their wild behavior to attendance at parent-approved events.

The Amish, that is--and this is something I would never have dreamt I could say prior to reading this book--are, some of them, too wild for this reviewer.The rumspringa period is intended to give the young Amish some experience of mainstream culture so that they can make informed decisions, when the time comes, about whether or not to join the Amish church as adults. The period ends, ideally, when a young adult in rumspringa decides to be baptized into the church, which implies refraining thenceforth from the illicit behaviors they were allowed briefly to experience. Some 80% of Amish youth do, in fact, return to the fold.

Tom Shachtman's Rumspringa is the product of more than 400 hours of interviews conducted between 1999 and 2004. Shachtman focuses on the period of rumspringa, but in fact his book serves as an introduction to Amish life as a whole. Each of the author's 11 chapters centers on some aspect of Amish life--education (most Amish aren't educated beyond the 8th grade), farming, punishment by shunning, the role of women in Amish society. Shachtman profiles a great number of individual Amish of varying ages, returning to his subjects' stories throughout the book as anecdotes from their lives become pertinent to his current theme. Shachtman seamlessly integrates direct quotes and information gleaned from the interviews into his narrative. And in fact Shachtman writes very well throughout the book. His prose is clear and admirably precise.

Shachtman's book is also fascinating, at least to this reader, who was previously largely unfamiliar with the particulars of Amish culture. I cannot know how a reader raised in the Amish faith would respond to the book, but Shachtman's study seemed to me a very thoughtful and fair-minded exploration of the society. The author finds value in much of what Amish culture has to offer--the Amish work ethic, for example, dependable community support, their care of the elderly and infirm--while finding fault with other aspects, for example, their abbreviated educational system. Shachtman concludes with a chapter considering why so high a percentage of youths in rumspringa eventually join the church. What is the allure of life in Amish society, considering that the price of belonging, the renunciation of much of one's independence, is so high? It is a very interesting discussion.

Review summary: When they turn 16, children who have been raised among the Old Order Amish experience a curious coming-of-age ritual, the rumspringa, a period during which they are allowed to experience the conveniences and temptations, previously forbidden them, of mainstream, "English" society. The rumspringa period is intended to help the young Amish to make informed decisions, when the time comes, about whether or not to join the Amish church as adults. In Rumspringa, the product of more than 400 hours of interviews, Tom Shachtman focuses on the period of rumspringa, but in fact his book serves as an introduction to Amish life as a whole. I cannot know how a reader raised in the Amish faith would respond to the book, but Shachtman's study seemed to me a very thoughtful and fair-minded exploration of the society. It is a fascinating book, written in clear, admirably precise prose.

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Comments

1.

This book sounds really interesting. I had heard about this right of passage before, though I was horrified when I found out they had made a reality TV show about it.

2.

It really was very interesting, and I in fact find myself mentioning it to people in conversation more than I do with most books. I didn't see the reality show, nor did I see the documentary from the research for which this book evidently sprang. My only other acquaintance with the Amish, I'm afraid, was the Harrison Ford movie.




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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.