Brad Igou on Amish Voices: A Collection of Amish Writings (Book Giveaway)

Buggy in snow- Chuck Grimmett/flickr

Free Rein

One day in late fall, snow fell and caught me unprepared for winter. Hoping to save a little time, I took a different way home, one with which I was not too familiar, yet I anticipated no problem. Old Dobbin obligingly trotted on, but I was not far until I began to have doubts that this road was leading me home. By now the only thing I was certain of was that I was not going where I wished to go.

A sudden inspiration came to me, and I urged my horse onward. I turned around and headed back the way I had come. Only this time I left it all to good old Dobbin. I knew I was too confused to decide for myself, and I believed that my horse wanted to get home every bit as much as I did. It was exactly the opposite of what seemed right to me, but I knew my hope was in trusting my horse and God, who had given him the homing instinct. We had not gone too far before the faint outlines began to look familiar. My horse had found the way.

Is it not the same in our lives? We think we know, only to find ourselves on the wrong track. Our only way back is to turn around, let loose the reins, and trust Another to lead the way, even when it is not what we might choose for ourselves. We know he guides the way and knows our every need.

–A Teacher

Excerpt from Amish Voices: A Collection of Amish Writings by Brad Igou, © Herald Press, 2019. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Heraldpress.com.


Brad Igou is the person behind the book Amish Voices: A Collection of Amish Writings.

For many years, Brad was president and co-owner of the Amish Experience at Plain & Fancy Farm in Bird-in-Hand, PA, before retiring last year.

Brad was the publisher and author of numerous articles in the Amish Country News monthly, which you might have come across if you’ve visited Lancaster County. He has also spoken at conferences on the Amish at Elizabethtown College.

The Amish In Their Own Words – an earlier version of this book – was one of the first books I ever read about the Amish.

So it’s nice to have Brad here today to answer some questions on his own experiences with the Amish over the years, and how this unique book – based on writings in the Amish publication Family Life – came to be.

Enter to win a copy of Amish Voices

To enter the drawing for a copy of Amish Voices, just leave a comment on this post. The winner will be drawn at random and announced in a separate post next week.


Brad Igou on Amish Voices

Amish America: Can you give us some brief background on this book – how did it come about and what does it contain?

Brad Igou: In 1999, after many years of reading Amish publications, the first book The Amish In Their Own Words, was published. Then 20 years later a condensed version, Amish Voices, was released.

The idea behind both books was to let the Amish speak for themselves through their writings in the monthly magazine Family Life, from Pathway, the Amish publishing house based in Aylmer, Ontario, Canada.

Amish America: How did you first meet the Amish and how have you worked and interacted with them over the years?

Brad Igou: In college I got a job working at a local Amish attraction as a guide. One of my jobs was to go out and pick up craft items from an elderly Amish lady. We struck up a friendship, and I became so interested in the Amish that I changed my major to sociology/anthropology at Ithaca College.

In my senior year, I was able to do an independent study by living and working with an Amish family for three months. It was there that I came across copies of Family Life, and found them a fascinating window into Amish life, quite different from the academic books I was used to reading.

Obviously during my thirty years at the Amish Experience (Route 340, between Bird-in-Hand and Intercourse), I had contact with many Amish, especially when we developed our unique Amish Visit-in-Person Tour.

Amish on scooters- likeaduck/flickr (cropped)

What did the process of putting together this book look like? 

I don’t know exactly when, but I believe in the late 1980’s, I met Amishman Abner Beiler while on a tour. Of all things, we got talking about cornmeal pancakes and I told him I would drive by his house with a recipe I had.

Known as a local Amish “historian” and a good talker, I learned he was currently housing a library in his house, and all the issues of Family Life beginning in 1967 where there (the library eventually moved into a permanent building beside the Gordonville Bookstore).

I had been thinking of compiling some articles from the magazines but never thought I would find all the back issues. And so began the process of my leaving work at the Amish Experience most Wednesday nights and reading through the issues, writing by hand the sections I thought interesting.

In the process, Abner became a treasured friend and resource. I had decided to stop reading at the 25-year mark. Near the end of the project, the big old computer in my house crashed and I lost what I had typed in (these were the days of actual floppy disks).

Luckily, I had kept my hand-written notes, and Abner encouraged me to start the process of re-typing them all again. I then printed the selections out and organized them in chronological order into appropriate categories (chapters) for the book.

What in your view are the biggest misconceptions people have about the Amish? What surprised you as to what you learned while compiling this book?

Many people think of the Amish in monolithic terms… they all live and think alike. Today, readers of the Amish America website certainly discover that diversity of Amish culture, practices, and opinions.

As I read Family Life, I was fascinated by the different thoughts and the honest writing and discussion, often grappling with very difficult personal problems. Also, for people with an 8th-grade education, many of the poems and articles were extremely compelling and emotional. This was clearly the “human side” of the Amish.

Finally, I also enjoyed the humor. I have always felt that many Amish have a delightful sense of humor and enjoy a good laugh as much as the next person.

Which topics evoked the strongest responses from people writing in to Family Life?

There were two columns, “What Do You Think?” and “Problem Corner,” in which often difficult issues and concerns were presented, and readers were invited to respond. The range of responses was often fascinating, and people were not always in agreement.

Editor Elmo Stoll’s column “Views and Values” was always worth reading. And “Yesterdays and Years” looked at Amish life in days gone by. All of these clearly got people thinking and inspired many responses.

Which articles or comments made the biggest impression or stood out to you the most?

The one lengthy article that convinced me a book would be worthwhile was the story about the Amish selecting a new minister.

I had read the description of this choosing by lot in scholarly books, but I had never read something describing the thoughts that might go through members’ heads during the process.

Having been lucky enough to attend such a service, and moved by all the emotion I felt in the room when the new minister was announced, I now had a window into the various thoughts that might have been swirling around in the room at the time.

I also enjoyed what I called “Amish Parables,” in which something simple inspired the writer to a bigger realization or inspiration. Having taught English in Japan for eight years, I saw these stories as a sort of Amish Zen, or akin to Christ’s parables in the New Testament.

What, if any, changes did you notice in the magazine over the 25-year-period you covered?

The changes really had to do with what was going on to a degree in the world around them over the 25 years. But I remained more impressed with the consistency of a sense of community, how they might often question their beliefs, and by being humble and rarely judging others.

Rarely are religion and way of life tied together as they are in Amish culture. As one column was titled, “The Answer is in the Scriptures.”

What might non-Amish readers gain from reading Amish Voices?

Many readers say they like the short selections, making it easy to pick up the book and simply read a couple paragraphs at random. So it is not a “tough” academic read, but one by which we see the Amish not as “cookie cutter” people, but facing many of the same challenges of life in a changing world, raising children, making a living, dealing with technology, and our relationship to religion and to one another.

I like how one writer said their focus should not be on this world, but on the world yet to come. Finally, the Amish are quick to note they are far from perfect, and don’t always face serious problems as they should.

Few people are “studied” as much as the Amish. But in this book, I just wanted the Amish to speak for themselves so we could see them “as people,” not as objects of academic study or the subject of romance novels.


Thanks to Brad for his answers. Enter to win a copy of Amish Voices by leaving a comment below. Or if you’d like to go ahead and get the book now, you can do that here.

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    111 Comments

    1. Book giveaway

      Have always loved anything about the Amish. One of my favorite things to do is drive around the Amish countryside that is near us. Would love to have this book to read!

    2. Al in Ky

      I have had a copy of Brad Igou’s original book The Amish in Their Own Words for many years and have read it and re-read it. I’ve enjoyed reading some of Elmo Stoll’s writings in the book, as well as many of the others’ writings. One of Stoll’s writings I often think about is the one where he reflects on how to answer people who ask, “You don’t have TV? What do you do in the evening?” Stoll said it would make more sense to reverse the question, and be asking, “What! You mean you have time to just sit and watch TV? When do you get your work done? When do you visit your friends? When do you read good books? When do you tell the children a story, or help them play a game, or put a puzzle together?”. (The Amish in Their Own Words, p.253). I would add, “When do you have time to write hand-written letters to your friends and relatives who live away?”
      Good things to think about and do during these days when many of us are staying at home much more than usual.

      (Since I have a copy of the original book, I do not desire to be in the drawing).

    3. Charles Powers

      Awesome idea

      This looks like an awesome book! At times like these when the world is in an uproar, it is good to take a look at a “simpler” way of life!

    4. Sidney Gilman

      Fascinated by the Amish

      I have long been fascinated by the Amish, particularly how they dress and what they eat. I have recently gotten hooked on Amish novels and Amish cookbooks.

    5. Vickie D Dulaney

      MS Vickie Dulaney

      How can you win a book.

      1. Just by leaving a comment – so you’re entered now!:)

        1. Thanks for all the dedicated work you’ve done to compile these interesting stories. I remember trying to write my geneology on a typewriter and compiling all of it into a notebook. Not easy and tedious…but please leave my name out of the drawing as I am going to buy your book – btway we lived near an Amish community in Ohio -have eaten in their restaurants – bought from their bakeries and craft shops. I so admire their hard work ethics and dedication. thank you for sharing

    6. JP

      entry

      Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of the book.

    7. Gail D

      Authentic

      I would appreciate the opportunity to read this: maybe the best way to learn about Amish culture is from the personal reflections of those who are themselves Amish.

    8. Christine

      Family Life & Brad Igou’s book giveaway

      Thank you for your insight. I have been getting Family Lufe for about 4 years and thoroughly enjoy it.

      1. Christine

        Previous comment

        My apologies for the typos in my original comment.

        1. Juanita Cook.

          Thanks for a chance to win this book.

    9. Carol Durham

      Entry

      Thank you for the opportunity to participate in your book giveaway.

    10. Adam

      Sounds like a very interesting book! Would love to win it!

    11. Denise

      I would enjoy reading this book. Having lived with my grandparents for several of my growing up years, there are a lot of similarities in their sayings and thoughts. Thank you for the opportunity!

    12. janet

      book give-a-way

      I would be absolutely thrilled to be the recipient of your book. It is a very long story but my New Jersey family was very fortunate to be able to call Abner Beiler our friend for many years also. My quilt tops that his sister in law Malinda quilted for me… are treasured. I have visited the area since I was a child, then with my children (where Abner taught them about bookbinding) and now I continue to go now as an adult. I hold many special and treasured memories and your book certainly would spark many of them.
      thank you!!!!!!

      1. Janet, Brad passed this comment along for you:

        Widow Malinda lived beside Abner in what was a “glorified storage shed,” as I like to call it. They were good companions. I visited Malinda sometimes and have fond memlories of talking to her, watching her work on quilts, and her collection of some 300 salt and pepper shakers!

    13. Entry / the Gentle Amish

      Hi, I live right outside Amish country in Lancaster, PA and I love taking drives out into the country and visiting roadside stands and getting fresh fruit and vegetables in the Summer. In the winter, my family and I visit the shops not only in Lancaster but other places such as Bird in Hand and such. I’ve been to the college archives and their so much there to learn about the Amish culture and way of life. I had never heard of this book until now and it sounds so interesting. I’d love to have a copy that I could display on my coffee table.

    14. Cathy

      entry

      I love anything that has to with the Amish. I love reading books about the Amish, getting as many as possible. I travel to Amish areas with my children as much as possible. Something about the areas seem to bring a feeling a peace no matter what life is dealing.

      1. That’s great Cathy. I think it must be good and eye-opening for the kids.

    15. Char N.

      Sounds like a great read

      I would love to read Mr. Igou’s book of Amish writings.
      Sounds like a very interesting read!
      Thanks!
      Char

    16. J.O.B.

      Amish Voices

      Looks like a good read. Even if I don’t win, I’ll buy.

    17. Toni Rodriguez

      Sounds beautiful.

      This sounds like a beautiful and comforting read. I’ve always been so interested in the Amish, how they live, and gather, their cooking, and child rearing, it just seems like life would be so peaceful, and such a devoted blessed life. Thank you for this giveaway.

      1. Did you have a chance to visit any communities Toni? I’d recommend it if not (at least once things calm down a bit).

    18. Daniel Simon

      I would also recommend people read Donald B. Kraybill’s works on the Amish. He is a fantastic writer.

    19. Susan M McKendry

      looking forward to reading this book

      Wow–So many want to read this book, and so do I even though the chance is slim, worth a try!

    20. Janet Hvizdos

      Truth About The Amish

      I have never read your books but would love to read this one as I would love to learn more truthful things about the Amish and their communities.

    21. Pamela Miller

      Book Giveaway

      I have long been interested in the Amish way of life
      and believe that we could learn many things from them
      that would help us in our own lives. I would love to win
      this book.

    22. Alexa Ball

      Hopeful

      I’ve been research the Amish fat a while and have been considering joining. Receiving this book would help me know if I want to join the Amish of Lancaster County. Also, imI absolutely love this site.

    23. Elisabeth Johnson

      Danke

      Thank You for all that you fo on this site and a chance to win this book.

    24. Grace McCain

      That is a well picked cover image! 🙂

    25. Lyn McCloskey

      Thanks for the info you share on Facebook

      I sometimes forget there’s ALSO this page to read, and it’s full of interesting articles!

    26. Kay Garrett

      I would love the opportunity to read “Amish Voices” which sounds like a fabulous book. Love when stories can give us a message to use in our daily life.

      If I were fortunate enough to be selected, I would be more than happy to review the book and share that review so others may find out about this great book.

    27. Would really enjoy reading this book!

    28. Sheila H Rose

      Book Giveaway

      I first became aware of the Amish people on a visit to Indiana in the early 70’s. Ever since, I’ve been interested in learning as much as I can about them. I love reading about them and also collect every Amish recipe I can get my hands on! Thank you so much for this site because it’s been extremely helpful too!

    29. Paul Anderson

      LOVE IT!

      I would love to share this with my family!

    30. Janice Carter

      I love learning about the Amish culture and I enjoy following you on Facebook. Have a wonderful day!

    31. Angela Zundel

      Sounds delightful

      I love the stories the Amish people tell. Full of humor at times, and usually there’s a good lesson!I’d love to read this book.

    32. Sharon Miller

      Would love to read

      Would love to read this book and share it. We have many wonderful Amish neighbor friends.

    33. Deborah Hazelton

      Would love to read Amish Voices.

      This book sounds great. Hope I am not to late entering. Stay healthy and safe.

    34. Marty Wayne

      Learning the Amish

      I started visiting the Lancaster Amish area about 35 years ago. At that time, the Amish were a curiosity to me. As I have visited Lancaster and taken many bus tours and several Amish buggy rides, I have learned the Amish are people just like me. They chose their life style as I chose mine. They live the life style they chose as I live my life style. We are as different in our choices as we are the same as humans. I respect the Amish as I hope they respect me. I shall be back several more times.

    35. Brad Igou book

      To the following people that have made comments
      For a very informative read and yes I plan to get the book by Brad also.
      Gail D–Janet– Cathy–Janet Hvizdos–and Walter Boomsma Read “Amish Grace” by Donald B. Kraybill,Steven M. Nolt and David L. Weaver-Zercher.
      The reason I say this is that I have an Amish back ground also. I left at the age of 18 and will be 81 this coming June.I am so glad for all the responses about this book. I just lost my oldest brother a little over a month ago. He lived in the Bloomfirld, Iowa community he was 87 was involved in a fall. Needless to say it was a very large funeral over 600 in attendance. Erik again as always a good job in sharing the info about this book by Brad. I already know I won’t win since I looked ahead and saw that Ms. Campbell won. I will also be getting the book.

    36. Brad Igou book

      Andy Miller
      I was going to mention in my other comment. That I have also experienced my horse {Bill} stopping in front of the barn and me waking up then too. I was 17 at the time. I don’t know if he would have tried to go into the barn if the door had been open or not. It really was not a good feeling he had to turn left off a black top highway about six miles south of Jamesport, Mo. this was back in 1957. Blessings to all.

      1. Marcus Yoder

        Andy Miller

        Did you live in Arthur, Illinois?
        Marcus Yoder

    37. Brad Igou book

      Andy Miller
      Marcus Yoder
      No I never lived in Arthur, IL. I did have cousins that used to live their but I don’t know if they still do. I was born in Topeka, IN. and did my growing up years in Buchanan County Iowa in the Amish community there. The last place I lived as an Amish youth was Jamesport, MO. I left from that community. Marcus you having the last name of Yoder my grandmother on my dads side was a Yoder. They lived in the Middlebury, IN. area. Would be glad to talk to you. I and my wife live in Sherwood, AR. which is just outside of North Little Rock, AR. Would be glad to talk to you some time
      ph#501-415-2164. Blessings

    38. Anna Russell

      I would love to have the opportunity to win this book

    39. Brad Igou book

      Andy
      To Marcus Yoder I am sorry I just reread my post to you and I gave you my wrong phone nbr 501-416-2164 is my correct nbr. Sorry

    40. Kim Albert

      Lovely book

      Would love to get this book to add to my Amish book collection!