Linda Byler is one of the most successful of all authors of Amish romance novels. One thing that makes Linda stand out is that she herself is Amish.
Linda recently spoke to the UK Daily Mail. For those unfamiliar, that is a tabloid paper. And the article has a tabloidy feel, but that aside it’s interesting – in part because of how frankly Linda speaks.
It addresses an apparent controversy within the Amish over her books. Now given the media source, I don’t know how hyped up this story is, and how much of a controversy it actually is.
But the fact that Linda gives an interview to the paper suggests there’s something to it. And going by what she says, it does seem that her books have gotten some frowns within the Amish. She’s even been blamed for some bigger problems within some Amish communities. Namely, abuse.
Linda speaks frankly on sex in her community
Here’s what Linda has to say. Now, by the way it’s written, it’s hard to tell if she’s referring to her own church, or “the Amish” as a general whole (I would guess the latter). From the article:
Turning to the Amish people, Byler said that rather than her community becoming more progressive as the years roll by, in fact, it has gotten even more conservative.
‘Touching is looked down upon in this day and age, but it wasn’t in my day. Sex before marriage is a no, no of course.
But we have pregnancies. We have couples who “loved each other” before marriage. There are single mothers, but they are not shunned – they are accepted in the community,’ she explained.
What could be considered “racy” (at least in an Amish context) in her books? Linda explains:
Her writing career began at an Amish newspaper where she honed her talent before she embarked on her romance series which have propelled her into the literary stratosphere.
But not everyone is thrilled by the runaway success of her titillating novels and some elders claim that the rising popularity of the romance novels is fueling sexual abuse.
‘They are very tame books,’ Byler said, adding there is no sexual intercourse. ‘There’s nothing unclean in them. There is some touching, my publisher said it would have to be discreet and a little bit of a kiss,’ she told DailyMail.com.
Now, what might be tame for a non-Amish readership, can certainly raise eyebrows in Amish circles. The perception of what’s acceptable and appropriate in those two worlds is pretty far apart in 2023.
Novels to blame for sexual abuse?
But taking things further, the issue seems to be that Linda has gotten some blame for cases of sexual abuse in Amish communities:
Turning to the recent cases of sex abuse within the Amish community Byler says members have unfairly laid the blame at her door.
‘In the last 10 years or so, romance novels have become wrong in the community,’ Byler said.
‘Romance novels are looked down upon by a lot of the younger generation-they look at them negatively on account of a lot of molesting and troubled people in facilities where they go to get help.
‘But there’s a bit of it [sexual abuse in the community] and you know, when these things come to light, they blame the romance novels.’
Again, I don’t know who is doing the blaming here. But if there are people are pointing a finger at Linda’s books (or other Amish romance novels) for sexual abuse done by Amish perpetrators, I think that’s completely misguided.
Linda is clearly outside the norm for the Amish, just by dint of her career as a best-selling author of books read mainly by non-Amish people. So it’s not surprising that she maybe pushes the boundaries a bit both in her writing, and in her frank way of speaking to the media. Perhaps she felt this was a way to get the word out.
From what I can tell, Linda has written close to four dozen books (jaw drop!). I confess I haven’t really read her novels, perhaps outside of some bits. But I know Linda’s books are appreciated by many. One of our readers previously wrote this about her novels: “Some of her early writing is a bit rough, but over the years it has improved. She has written about (fictional) communities in various areas, from many different periods. I highly recommend reading her work.”
Another shares that “I appreciate her frankness, by not turning her Amish characters into saints – but rather human beings like we who are Englisch.” This frankness is likely part of her appeal – and probably why she’s gotten some backlash here.
Unfortunately, if an Amish novelist is in fact getting blame for abuse in Amish communities, that probably doesn’t help in the grand scheme of things. And putting focus on these novels as part of the problem might actually further and prolong existing abuse problems in those communities.