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Book Cover for: Plain: A Memoir of Mennonite Girlhood, Mary Alice Hostetter

Plain: A Memoir of Mennonite Girlhood

Mary Alice Hostetter

Plain tells the story of Mary Alice Hostetter's journey to define an authentic self amid a rigid religious upbringing in a Mennonite farm family. Although endowed with a personality "prone toward questioning and challenging," the young Mary Alice at first wants nothing more than to be a good girl, to do her share, and--alongside her eleven siblings--to work her family's Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, farm. She feels fortunate to have been born into a religion where, as the familiar hymn states, she is "safe in the arms of Jesus." As an adolescent, that keen desire for belonging becomes focused on her worldly peers, even though she knows that Mennonites consider themselves a people apart. Eventually she leaves behind the fields and fences of her youth, thinking she will finally be able to grow beyond the prohibitions of her church. Discovering and accepting her sexuality, she once again finds herself apart, on the outside of family, community, and societal norms.

This quietly powerful memoir of longing and acceptance casts a humanizing eye on a little-understood American religious tradition and a woman's striving to grow within and beyond it.

Book Details

  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publish Date: Jan 7th, 2025
  • Pages: 168
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 8.50in - 5.50in - 0.70in - 1.00lb
  • EAN: 9780299340445
  • Categories: MemoirsLGBTQ+Christianity - Mennonite

About the Author

Mary Alice Hostetter grew up the tenth of twelve children in a Mennonite farm family. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Gettysburg Review, HuffPost Personal, and elsewhere. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Praise for this book

"An excellent meditation on faith and community."--Publishers Weekly
"[A] slim and graceful memoir."--Ms. Magazine
"Engaging and reflective, Plain is a complex memoir about moving beyond the Mennonite faith while maintaining an integral connection to its lessons."--Foreword Reviews
"An authentic and evocative story. . . . These moving, tenderly rendered essays straddle the line between Hostetter expressing a fervent desire to leave her upbringing and way of life, while also finding pride and nostalgia for where she came from."--Shelf Awareness
"Hostetter's writing is lovely and evocative of place and emotion. Readers will enjoy sinking into this quietly empowering story of coming into one's own."--Booklist
"A deeply honest, forthright, and forgiving account of finding one's way as a gay Mennonite. Plain shows how we the misplaced faithful take the truths of our upbringing to create beautiful stories, homes, and lives."--Joanna Brooks, author of The Book of Mormon Girl
"A wise and wonderful memoir about breaking away from tradition, then finally discovering its value. This clear-eyed yet affectionate coming-of-age story will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled to separate from their family and find their true, authentic self."--Sharon Harrigan, author of Playing with Dynamite
"Filled with a familiar equanimity, grace, and droll humor. This book is as simple and nourishing as fresh vegetable soup and as complex as a Tibetan mandala. It will leave you pondering the depth of a single word: plain."--Shirley Showalter, author of Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World

"While Plain is a quiet memoir, it's not a slow read. Mary Alice uses humor, yearnings, and curiosity to build dramatic tension within the mundane experiences of farm life. . . . The care she uses to develop this world in early chapters gave me a deep appreciation for the culture in which she grew up and deep empathy for the longings she faced within this world that served her yet didn't fully see her. . . . Not all rebellions need to be loud and in your face. Sometimes the quieter ones have the greatest power."--Lisa Ellison, Hippocampus Magazine

"[A] powerful memoir. . . . Very highly recommended."--Midwest Book Review