Amish Author Linda Byler Rejects Blame For Sexual Abuse Placed On Her Novels

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.

Some of Linda Byler’s many books

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.

Get the Amish in your inbox

Join 15,000 email subscribers. No spam. 100% free

    Similar Posts

    Leave a Reply to Jim Potter Cancel reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    20 Comments

    1. kim hansen

      Linda Byler Books

      I’ve read most of her books and i don’t see what the fuss is about. They are as christian as you can get. No sex or abuse of any kind in the books. I think the community is being unfair to her. It’s worse when a gossip magazine or paper twists what is said.

    2. I Agree

      I agree. I think it’s misguided to blame Amish author Linda Byler for abuse in the Amish community. I’m sure there was abuse before she authored books and they’ll be abuse long after when she’s written her last novel. I admire Byler for her fictional creative writing. Yes, she stands out! Whether you’re Amish or English, four dozen books is quite an accomplishment. I understand Byler writes all her stories out by hand on paper and her agent transcribes the manuscripts to a computer. I sure hope Byler doesn’t get caught up in being politically correct when she’s using a God-given talent.

    3. Birdie Cutair

      I have always enjoyed her novels from the first one I read about the Amish actually shopping at Wal-Mart. I don’t see anything wrong or abusive on any that I have read. They are just really real.

    4. Joe

      Linda Byler and sexual abuse in her novels

      I have read almost all of Linda’s novels (not the Buggy Spoke series which is meant for young people). Her early writing was fairly light-hearted, but did touch on the subject of families having to follow the husband/father’s decisions, which caused problems at times within the families.

      Her more recent works DO touch on weightier material. For instance, one of her most recent trilogies, The Long Road Home trilogy, takes place during the depression and into the 1950s. It deals with two orphans, one boy and one girl, that the home community feels they cannot take in, so they get sent to live in Arkansas with a distant aunt and uncle. Things do not go well. The uncle is verbally abusive to his wife, gets physically abusive to the boy (he gets whipped and the scenes are not prettied up), and sexually abuses the girl (that is merely hinted at – no sex scenes), but it does become clear what has gone on. If that was not bad enough, the Amish community in Arkansas can’t believe it is happening, as the uncle is a respected member of the community. Oh, and then there is the race issue. The girl falls in love with a black boy, and to escape the abusive relationship, they run off to New York and get married. The boy runs off to California. And that’s just the first novel in the trilogy! It was so dark, I had trouble getting through it. Luckily, the next two installments involved working through the problems, and everything more or less turns out OK.

      So, I can see where some members of the community may not like the portrayals in this trilogy, but to claim they are causing the problems, rather than describing things that may be going on in some Amish communities? Uh, I don’t see it.

      Some of her earlier works hinted at some problems of spousal and child abuse, but were much less blatantly described. Most of her works, however, deal with the normal problems of adolescent and young adult Amish as they work their way through the world.

    5. Liz Bourgeois

      Love her books

      I have read quite a few of her books and have enjoyed them. I can’t remember anything remotely “racy” in any of them. I think there is sexual abuse in the Amish community just like it is in other communities. Are these books to blame? I have a hard time believing that. I think the community may be looking to shift blame off of the individuals and onto her books…that is just my two cents worth.

    6. Leana

      Sex in the country

      Yup, sex is always a controversial topic to say the least! I would have to read the books to give an opinion on this matter. However it is never okay to blame someone else for one’s own crime. The sexual abuser is the guilty one, not anyone else; and too easily the blame gets shifted to another party including the victim.

      I am very careful with what I take in, I don’t watch any TV or go to the movies, I don’t listen to worldly music, (for a list of reasons) or read anything that might have any sort of sex scene in it. When I was young that was enough to strike a match and burn down the whole place and who knows what trouble I would end up in! So I am careful even now. But even in churches here the standard is getting so low that the statistics show that between half and three quarters of the congregation including the pastors are looking at online pornography!

      It is a tough topic for sure.

    7. Wow

      You know what they say, “When you point a finger, there are three pointing back at you.” Are abusers hiding by trying to cast the blame elsewhere? Makes one wonder…

      Blaming abuse on an Amish romance novel is ridiculous. (I’ve never known a book to abuse anyone.) This is all about excusing behavior by shifting the blame. Who knows? Maybe all this will lead to justice for the abused.

    8. Ann of Ohio

      I'm a fan of Mrs. Byler

      I’ve just begun the Long Road Home series and it is very dark compared with other of her writings, even Lancaster Burning, which is about a series of arson fires. Her characters are always memorable (I loved Levi in Lancaster Burning and would love to look through his decks of cards with him) and not stereotyped at all. My feeling is that some people may be upset that because there is abuse in every kind of community that needs to come to light they want to take the easy way out and sweep it under the rug so people will continue to think of Christians and Plain people in a stereotyped way like the smiling man on the Seltzer’s Lebanon bologna package.

      I’ve been interested in Mrs. Byler since I read about her. I didn’t at first realize she was Amish, though her books never contain silly mistakes as in books by non-Amish which demonstrate the authors know nothing at all about gardening or farming or canning (canning meat using the hot water bath method, wow). In one article the amount she gets from the publisher was mentioned and I wondered if she even knew what a best-selling author normally gets in terms of royalties. Think of what it could do for the church mutual aid system!

      I hadn’t realized how many books she has written though I have read a dozen or more. I have my work cut out for me. I see eyestrain in my future!

    9. J.O.B.

      Different point of view

      She has no problem being prideful by having her picture taken showing off her book.

      And doing an interview with a tabloid paper like that(which is from another country) is designed to increase sales of her books by targeting another market of consumers.

      As for the topics of abuse, she and her publisher clearly know what to put into the book to get readers attention so they will buy these books. Either obvious or hinted at, the abuse or certain topics is a tool to get a reaction out of the reader(consumer).

      Controversy sells. And it gives a person free publicity/advertising. That’s why she did an interview with a known tabloid in another country. Want proof? Well, you are reading this.

      The criticism from the Amish community is not a surprise. Again, some people may have difficulty articulating why they are unhappy. But some in the community who are troubled by the books may have a valid complaint(although not articulated well).

      As for blaming the books for some of the abuse. The basics are that they are blaming outside influence for giving people ideas. Negative and unhealthy ideas that people may act on. Again, not articulated well. But the idea does have some validity.

      Seeing one of their own use their Amish community, culture, way of life, etc, as a caricature/tool, to exploit for financial gain. Yeah, I wouldn’t be happy, either.

      And sadly, some comments you might read in the comment section might also be written by employees/people who stand to profit from the sale of these books. Trying to be positive and get others to buy the books. Sadly, this happens a lot. Buy something online and read the reviews. Ever wonder who the people are giving 4 and 5 star reviews?…

      Yes, I do know a little how the business works.

      Again, this is just a different point of view based on what I’ve seen.

    10. Dolores

      Placing Blame where it doesn't belong

      Blaming the author of a book for actions of others is ridiculous, at best. We are all “owners” of our own actions. As adults we (and the Amish) know what is right and what is wrong…to say a book has “influenced” a behavior shows weakness (and fault) in THAT person committing the act. NOT the writer. Amish culture praises its strength to resist temptation. I believe it is the influence of (mostly elder) Amish community members pushing for the use of cell phones, etc to be more influential and corruptive than a book.
      Some (amish) communities are dealing with member becoming addicted to porn…a book is only as good as the readers imagination; imagination is developed thru visual experience. Bylers books are NOT visual.

    11. Joe

      Same article in the New York Post?

      Erik, while searching for info on Linda, I came across the following, published, it seems, a little earlier than the one in the Daily Mail.

      https://nypost.com/2023/09/03/amish-romance-novel-with-no-sex-is-too-hot-for-church-elders/

      Now, the Post is another tabloid, so I don’t know which tabloid may have copied the other, so can’t say who Linda may have talked to.

      And on another note – that photo of Linda. I can’t remember how I found it a few years ago, and cannot find it now, but some private individual tracked her down and interviewed her. The photo accompanied his post of that interview. I don’t know if Linda knew that it would get plastered across the internet. As I remember the individual found out that Linda works at a farmer’s market sometimes, and found her that way.

      1. Joe

        This may be the interview I remember

        It is definitely more even-handed than the tabloid article!

        https://religionunplugged.com/news/2021/7/1/this-quiet-humble-amish-novelist-has-sold-more-than-350000-books-and-drops-another-title-today

      2. Yes the Post is how I found the Daily Mail article. The Post links Daily Mail as the source.

        I would guess Linda is probably aware of how the photos work, especially when she’s posed for it with her book. I’ve actually seen multiple attributions of the source of that photo, so that part is unclear. The Post article has the source as Simon & Schuster, so it might even be a press kit photo.

        We did post on that interview as well in 2021 – very nice one! https://amishamerica.com/old-order-amish-author-linda-byler-writing-39-novels/

        I sourced it to this link but I think it’s the same article/author: https://broadview.org/linda-byler-amish-author/

    12. It isn't necessary to be explicit to encourage bad attitudes

      I haven’t read Linda Byler’s books, so I cannot comment on them personally. However, I seriously would like to know exactly who objected to what precisely. “Some elders,” is very much weasel words. Who, and what did they actually object to, and in what context?

      I totally agree that the perpetrators of abuse are responsible for what they do, (usual criteria of responsibility, such as sanity, applying!), but that doesn’t mean there are not valid concerns regarding bad influences (which is, again, NOT to say that it follows Linda Byler is one). That a boy, of his own free will, stole a bag of sugar, and is rightly held accountable for it, doesn’t mean that his sister – who spent a lot of time explaining to him how clever and grown up it was to get this sort of “freebie” – is guiltless! Logically, anyone who deliberately tempts is guilty, as well as the one who gives way to temptation.

      I don’t know if this applies to America, but I’d have said the English (i.e. UK) tend to be extremely naive about the attitudes they encourage. For instance, I have spent years trying to get the medical profession to realise that to talk about sex as if it was something over which women had no control (I don’t know if they do this to men as well), is fundamentally disempowering and very negative. Women have the right to say no to sex. Continuously talking to us as if we didn’t have that right is likely to compromise the reality of consent. And this appalling attitude is genuinely totally accidental: they are trying to be non-judgemental, so they speak as if we had no agency; they don’t think outside their box about all the problems which encouraging people to think they have no agency cause!

      Could something similar be going on here? I’d want to know exactly what the people who were commenting were commenting on, and what they thought was encouraging abuse, before making a judgement.

      Among other things, it really does seem to me that the emphasis on “a romance novel with no sex in it,” is a complete red herring. It is perfectly possible to encourage sexual abuse without saying anything remotely explicit – which is, yet again, NOT to say that Linda Byler personally does this, only that whether material is explicit or not is irrelevant.

      For example, suppose an approved of character in a novel was to say something like, “Oh, a kiss or so, perhaps a bit more, doesn’t mean anything to an innocent young girl [girl in question is not quite twelve]. She might make a thing of being offended, but girls never are really, it’s all just a game to them: they always enjoy it. After all, they have to grow up and learn about their bodies.” (I just made that up as an example).

      That’s not explicit, but it’s strongly encouraging disrespect for both childhood and consent.

      I’d also comment that as a total outsider who knows nothing of Linda Byler and her thought except what is written here, I read that comment of hers about sex before marriage and wondered if she actually meant, “Sex before marriage is supposed to be a no-no, but actually, it is perfectly all right, and the way the community behaves towards those who behave in that way proves we all think it’s ok really.”

      She could equally mean, “We accept sex before marriage is completely wrong, but we are all sinners and as a community we completely accept the people who have done this particular wrong thing and repented of it.” It isn’t clear.

      If her novels are similarly unclear, any Christian might have reason to be a bit wary of teenagers learning their attitudes to sex from them. Which is, admittedly, a far cry from saying people are blaming abuse on the author of the novels, but, then, given the source (the daily mail is not known for its, um, integrity), how likely is that to really be what someone said, rather than, for example, a thoroughgoing misrepresentation of something said in response to a leading question? Our culture loves to portray Christians as sexually repressed killjoys; how far is this about the story people want to hear, rather than about what someone really said?

      On the other hand, everyone is capable of being unreasonable, and for all I know, the actual facts of the story would come out worse than is being suggested.

      More information is definitely needed…

    13. Susannah

      Blaming the author rather than exposing the molesters!!

      Of course blame an innocent talented writer of love stories while hiding the true sickness of incest and rape!! This is indicative of control & often used to manipulate a mindset….God calls this witchcraft!!

    14. Boyce Rensberger

      Why not interview her?

      Erik,
      Why not interview Linda Byler? There’s no need to guess at what she thinks. Also, what does she say about letting herself be photographed for publication? Which kind of Amish is she? Is she Beachy or “electric Amish”? Something else? I think your readers would like to know.
      –Boyce

      1. Actually when you are writing commentary blog posts like this (different from a strict news reporting operation), addressing communities across the country, you certainly do have to make some – hopefully educated – guesses! I do it all the time. It’s a blog, not Amish CNN 🙂

        The only thing I believe I guessed at is what she meant by “the Amish”. Otherwise Linda’s direct comments seemed to make it pretty clear what she thought about the topic. I’d be happy to speak with her, but I don’t see a big compelling reason to try to do so, as there is a good bit of info from/on her out there already.

        For example, this is a good profile for more on Linda (2021): https://broadview.org/linda-byler-amish-author/

        Linda is Old Order Amish living in central PA – not Beachy Amish or electric Amish. Her home community is in Franklin County, PA. The Amish in that community have roots in Lancaster County. The head covering she is wearing and the gray-topped buggy in the photo are two things characteristic to that group of Amish. As for the photo I’d be really surprised if Linda didn’t give permission or condone it being published, given that she is a) posing for it and smiling with her book and b) by her work as a widely-published author and prior appearances in media, she is clearly not media-shy.

    15. Amish author

      Sexual abuse is a choice made by morally and spiritually corrupt men and sometimes women. It has nothing to do with books. Not all abusers are literate!

    16. Wonderful author

      I have read almost all of her books. She is a very insightful and her characters, especially Lizzie, are some of my most favorite out of all the books I’ve read in my 63 years.

      I hope to have read and own all of her books this year. She is no more the cause of abuse among the Amish than I am.

    17. Deirdre Metcalf

      Linda Byler's Fault????

      Linda is one of my favorite Amish novel authors, mostly because I love that she DOESN’T put the Amish on a pedestal that no one could possibly attain. She shares the Amish experience, warts and all. Funny thing is that she actually addresses CSA, particularly in the Sadie’s Montana series. I guess that may have irritated some of the Amish. It’s sad, because none of us are perfect, regardless of what religion we are a part of.