In the latest issue of "The Christian Century" I was surprised and delighted to see Valarie Weaver-Zercher's article "Chaste romance." The premise of her article is about Amish fiction and its rise in popularity over the past several years. Surprised, because it caught me off guard--seems as if the Amish are every where. Delighted because I think it speaks to a hunger in American life.
Weaver-Zercher's new book Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels, has recently been published by the Johns Hopkins University Press. She spent a great deal of time and study researching the popularity of the rise of Amish romance. I hope to read her book in the future.
I discovered the author Beverly Lewis while in seminary. She is one of the more popular authors and has written a number of books over the years. ( You can read about her at http://www.beverlylewis.com.) Personally, the reading was pure escapism; my brain could only hold so much theology! It was intriguing to read about the Amish--the simplicity of their lives embedded in "romance" stories. While it provided entertainment and reading that was quite different from my theological studies, I do admit that it also opened up new avenues in my life.
To be fair, I've also read a book or two by Julia Spencer-Fleming (my favorite was In the Bleak Midwinter) and the exciting life of her main character, the Rev. Clare Fergusson ( and yes, she did serve a St. Alban's just like me!) But I've returned again and again to Lewis' books because there is a hunger deep within, not so much for the romance, but a simplicity of life and a place where one can find something that doesn't involve violence. Yes, peacefulness is desired. With the rise in popularity of reality TV programming (I'm not a TV fan), there is still something to be said for ficition.
While the books provide entertainment, they have led me to an exploration of Anabaptism, along with my Anglican/Episcopal roots. Anabaptists are as diverse as any other Christian group; but I find the commitment to peace and justice issues very compelling--they are a gentle people. Presently I am slowly reading John Howard Yoder's The Politics of Jesus. This is no Amish romance book. I am finding Yoder's book a challenge at many levels. I'm not sure that I would have stumbled across this book if I had not first been exposed to authors like Beverly Lewis.