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A Fascinating journey into the heart and culture of a reclusive religious community I Am Hutterite takes readers into the hidden heart of the little known Hutterite colony in southern Manitoba where author Mary Ann Kirkby spent her childhood When she was ten years old her parents packed up their seven children and a handful of possessions and left the security of the colony to start a new life Overnight they were thrust into a world they didn't understand a world that did not understand themBefore she left the colony Mary Ann had never tasted macaroni and cheese or ridden a bike She had never heard of Walt Disney or rock and roll She was forced to reinvent herself denying her heritage to fit in with her peers With great humor Kirkby describes how she adapted to popular culture; and with raw honesty her family's deep sense of loss for their community More than a history lesson I Am Hutterite is a powerful tale of retracing steps and understanding how our beginnings often define us Controversial and acclaimed by the Hutterite community Kirkby's book unveils the rich history and traditions of her people giving us a rare and intimate portrait of an extraordinary way of life


10 thoughts on “I Am Hutterite

  1. says:

    I'm back to one of my major 2018 reading goals to read a bunch from Alaska and Canada You can't read the prairies of Canada without reading about the Hutterites I read three books from their own voices two of which I got from a Canadian reading friend who grew up on the prairies too The other two books are Born Hutterite Stories by Samuel Hofer and Hutterite Diaries Wisdom from My Prairie CommunityThis book had the best writing of the three Mary Ann starts with her grandparents' story continues with her parents' love story and her father's family's contentious history with another Hutterite community to her childhood within the community At the age of 10 her parents pack up all the children and leave with barely than the clothes on their backs unable to cope with some of the conflicts the father had with the minister She is dumped into a school system where she doesn't know any pop culture wears the wrong clothes eats the wrong food and doesn't even speak English well yet because her schooling was in High German in the early years As an adult Mary Ann spent years researching her family visiting several Hutterite communities talking to old friends and family members and using tiny details some would share through a letter or photograph Every word feels intentional; I actually was curious about what her life was like as an adult but that isn't the story she is telling here It's clear that she has a deep gratitude for her childhood and wants to preserve it even if she has not gone back to that way of life It is powerful to read the confusion of a child who only knows this way of life trying to make sense of the English their word for all non Hutterites and their strange ways


  2. says:

    A Hutterite StoryIt was several years after I left the Amish that I first heard about Hutterites through a magazine article At the time I was astonished that there could be a third branch of Anabaptists that I had never heard about during my 23 years of living in an Amish community The other two are Amish and Mennonites Since then I have read articles about Hutterites but I was always left wanting for information which left an air of mystery and intrigue around them I imagine much the same way most people feel about the Amish Except maybe even so for unlike the Amish the Hutterites live on cloistered colonies which does not include anyone who is not Hutterite After learning about this culture I wished I knew someone who grew up on a Hutterite colony or at least that I'd have the opportunity to read a story by a HutteriteI found just such a story when I recently read I Am Hutterite by Mary Ann Kirkby In this beautifully rendered story she serves her readers a slice of life on the colony from her perspective of a young child after her mother had given birth to a younger siblingAs soon as she arrived home from the hospital Mother entered die Wuchen a six week period of special treatment extended to women after the birth of each child This included a nine week exemption from colony duty Peterana was the cook for nursing mothers and she delivered delicacies to our house every day Rich foods like Nukkela Suppen buttery dumplings waffles soaked in whiskey and plump cuts of chicken were carried over from the community kitchen in bowls and stainless steel pails While the rest of the colony ate regular fare at the long tables in the community kitchen Mother had the privilege of inviting family and friends to dine with her at home Most often her guest of choice was my fatherMary Ann Kirkby is a gifted storyteller I am with her in Kindergarten which she started as all other Hutterite children at age two and a half when they began their religious training She describes the soft fresh buns after dipping them into Schmond Wacken cream with generous dollops of jam that she enjoyed for breakfast and the stories songs and games she participated in I am with her when she and the other children went on outings to see the geese or visit the colony gardens I feel as though her memories and mine meld when she describes opening the pods in the pea patch and pulling baby carrots from the groundKirkby's childhood was as nearly idyllic as a child's can be I love the way she sets the background for the day her life was to change forever when she was ten years oldAcross the western sky the rich red orange and gold tones of a spectacular Manitoba sunset were bringing the soft summer day to a close We felt spoiled by its beauty in Fairholme for over and over again even in the harshest of winters we were treated to its splendor Against this magic expanse of space I was playing dodgeball with the children from the Essenschul We all had the giggles and our laughter infected a group of adults who had come to watch I as wide as was tall kept eluding the ball Above the merriment a voice pierced the warm airI won't spoil the story but I will say that life on the colony was less than idyllic for Mary Ann's father And here is where I actually identify with Mary Ann's parents for the tough choice they had to make even though I know that life for Mary Ann and her siblings was about to change and not necessarily for the betterI Am Hutterite is a wonderfully sensual story about Hutterite life which does exactly what I thought such a story would it brings Hutterites down to earth and puts a human face on themThe same way that Kirkby's childhood story is nearly idyllic so is this book nearly perfect But I have three criticisms1 There is a subtitle on this book The fascinating true story of a young woman's journey to reclaim her heritage There was only a very small portion of Kirkby's story that pertained to this so I feel like this subtitle is not very accurate And to that end I wonder if Kirkby isn't trying to have it both ways claim she is Hutterite while still enjoying the personal freedom she would have to sacrifice if she were to actually rejoin life on the colony Perhaps it comes of those good memories of her Hutterite childhood2 I love the first 198 pages of this book but then Kirkby summarizes the rest of her story and wraps up loose ends much too uickly I would have preferred that she save this part of her story for a seuel so that she could tell the story in the same sensual details with which she had told her story thus far3 I read somewhere on Kirkby's website that she learned the art of telling stories from life on the colony I felt I missed something because I would have loved to have been there during a story telling sessionPerhaps Kirkby did learn how to fashion a good story from her people but I cannot believe that all her talent comes from observing the masters I am willing to bet that she was born with her gift for storytelling that was then nurtured in her original community Either way I am glad she used her talent to bring us the story I Am Hutterite It carries an important message about a little known culture in North AmericaNote The spell checker recognizes Amish or Mennonite but it doesn't recognize Hutterite I know there is much intrigue about foreign exotic cultures but I find it interesting that we in North America don't know the Hutterites well enough to have the name of their culture show up as a valid word in our lexicon


  3. says:

    Krystl tempered her bad review of this book by stating that it wasn't the type of book she'd usually read which is a fair ualification Unfortunately I also found this book to be below average and it IS the type of book I like to read I've been particularly drawn to memoirs lately but this one falls shortI picked the book up because there's a large Hutterite colony near where Ivan grew up in South Dakota I found out from this book that it was actually the first Hutterite colony established in North America Like any minority group rumors about their practices and beliefs abound I wanted to read this book because I thought it would give me a less prejudiced authentic understanding of this population of people And to its credit it did do that I know about day to day life in a Hutterite community than I really needed or wanted toI suspected within the first disc that this book had started its life self published and I was right Although it is reasonably well written the author is a journalist by profession it suffers from a lot of unnecessary adjectives and adverbial phrases that make the writing feel sloppy But its biggest issue is the fact that it lacks a dramatic narrative arc Rather than reading like a memoir which follows a certain theme in the author's life this feels like merely a collection of reminiscences about growing up Hutterite Very few characters are well developed and those that are feel romanticized as does most of the experience of growing up Hutterite Many characters are not mentioned at all until something dramatic happens with them and at that point we don't care because we haven't gotten to know them And while the story DOES have the potential to follow a clear narrative arc it covers her father's friction with the colony's leader which eventually led the family to leave the pacing is all wrong with the story meandering off into day to day descriptions of life just when there's the opportunity to heighten the tension after a key incidentMary Ann Kirkby talks about how she's written the book for her son and really that's where this book feels most appropriate as a chronicle of a way of life for loved ones or descendents who have a personal connection to it As a story meant to appeal to the general public it falls unfortunately short


  4. says:

    I'm waffling a bit on the rating I've given this one like a 35 but parts of it had 5 star uality Very interesting reading about the Hutterites who though I've seen them at times shopping and driven by their large farms I knew virtually nothing about As with a number of different European groups who pulled away from Catholicism in the 1500's when Protestantism was rising with the likes of Martin Luther and who were being burned alive for heresy those who came to be known as Hutterite eventually left They were among many like the Mennonites who fled to Ukraine in the 1600 1700s where Catherine the Great was trying to stabilize her holdings against the rise of Ukrainian nationalism and who offered them land and sanctuary When they lost their military exemption in 1770 they sought a new home In 1874 they arrived in New York and from there went on to settle in Colonies in South Dakota Manitoba Saskatchewan and Alberta The new arrivals continued on with their lives following the original tenets of Jacob Hutter and his group of Anabaptists their faith based centrally on Acts 2 44 45And all that believed were together and had all things in common; and sold their possessions and goods and parted them to all men as every man had needMary Ann Kirkby tells wistfully of her childhood in her Hutterite Colony in Southern Manitoba Canada The system of managing the needs of its Colony had evolved into a practical efficient model utilized by every North American Hutterite Colony Breakfast and dinner were eaten communally while lunch was the only meal that families ate together Regardless of age or capacity each member had a station to fill and meaningful work to do No one received a salary but everyone's needs were met Sharing a common faith most Colony members were satisfied with a sustainable lifestyle that nurtured them physically and spiritually from cradle to grave Everyone ate worked and socialized together for the good of all Women did the cooking baking and gardening while the men carried out the farming mechanical and carpentry choresKirkby recalls a community that nurtured its children and worked to maintain its social euanimity The Hutterite dress code unchanged since the 1500s was one of comfort and modesty with its long floral skirts blouses vests aprons and polka dotted head scarves Men depending on the conservatism of the colony might have pants with front openings with hidden hooks and eyes visible buttons or a hidden side opening and always wore hats Once married men grew beards to show their status With their prosperous farms and gardens and fantastic home cooks everyone was fed with fresh food and baking from recipes sometimes four hundred years old When the children were in school their communal meal or essenschul was hearty and if they wanted of something they simply called out for it The concept of stealing was completely foreign to them; if buns pickles pies etc were out on a counter they were for everyone But human beings still can be human beings and hold grudges Mary Ann's mother had fallen in love with and was eventually given permission to marry Ron Dornn whose family had a bit of a contorted church history Jake Maendal head minister and brother to Mary Ann's mother was angry that she did not accept his choice for her and his begrudging behaviour cost the Dornn family dearly Kirbly's recounting of the years following her father's departure from the Colony continue to have the wistful voice of the ten year old girl one who can't uite accept what she has lost by her parents' actions and who isn't sure that the payoff has been worth their trade Through a dear Hutterite girlfriend's letter who is vacillating wilding over leaving or staying in her home colony Mary Ann suddenly sees that freedom of choice isn't where you live but an inside job I would have liked to read about the Colony and how it operates how it's people feel how it spends its profits confront the issue of shoplifting and thoughts about their future a bit adult overview But a worthwhile read And they make homemade wine unlike the Amish and Mennonites


  5. says:

    This was a wonderfully rich read with lots of honest gritty details about the author's childhood living in a Hutterite colony replete with descriptions of the food the constant companionship of the fellow Hutterite families most of which were large with 7 kids each the banter and teasing the uniue clothing and the prayer meetings and leadership Kirkby describes a happy childhood where there is always an abundance of food and an abundance of things to do There are many chores and the life is very structured but she felt security therein and did not want to leave When she is 10 her parents decide to leave the colony and strike out on their own Although Kirkby's transition to 'English' life is hard she tells the story with grace Kirkby does not pass over some of the rigid teachings however; she does not gloss over the harsh power hungry uncle's leadership and its terrible conseuences And the tragedies that befall them and other familiesI enjoyed learning about her experience and recommend this book to anyone who is interested in firsthand accounts of people living in alternative communities


  6. says:

    This is book is very special to me I love what Mary Ann Kirby says in this book 'for it is only when we embrace our past that we can find true fulfillment in our future' p228 Her statement spells out the reason for my own search for my family's beginningsMary Ann was invited by a friend to write a magazine article about Hutterite gardens But it turned into a journey into past starting with her Hutterite beginnings Her family lived in a Hutterite colony in southern Manitoba Canada Hutterites were one of three groups that sprang from the Anabaptists the Amish Hutterites and Mennonites I enjoyed her journey sometimes troubled sometimes joyful so much She lived the Hutterite life but by reflection she learned so much It is my hope to trace my Mennonites ancestors and learn their way of life so I can better understand my ancestors and myselfThe core difference between the two other groups and the Hutterites was the belief in no personal possessions that started with its Austrian founder Jacob Hutterite and is still followed in the Hutterite colonies today in Canada and United States Strangely this principal of no personal possessions led to why her family in their good conscience had to decide whether or not to leave Not because of a desire to obtain and keep things but because of importance of human life There is so much to learn from this book the true meaning of freedom the traditions of clothing cleanliness humor drinking singing and the expressions A unmarried woman is spoken of as 'a jar that hadn't yet found its lid' p 37 The tradition of giving a daughter at the age of 15a wooden hope chest my father did this too The special treatment that a woman who has just born a baby receives I could go on but I would spoil the book for you This book captures you at the beginning and won't let you go I will keep it on my bookshelf for reference in the future and I hope to re read it It is beautifully written and from some accounts of family past come big treasures of meaningI invite everyone interested in the past in their own ancestry in religion in ways of life to read and enjoy this book


  7. says:

    Interesting yet somehow lackingI admit I was interested in learning about the Hutterite people and their way of life This book is written by a woman who was raised as a Hutterite until her parents left the community when she was 10 years old Then we learn of her struggles to fit into the English world where even things as simple as mayonnaise are foreign to her In the end though this book just seemed to peter out without any real wrap up or conclusion Maybe that is how her life was She just slowly became English and her Hutterite life faded away It almost seems this book was written for her son for a family memoir to let him know of the history of his grandparents and great grandparents If this had been my family I would have been grateful that the story was saved But for me and unrelated reader it was just lacking in the end


  8. says:

    Super interesting memoir especially for people from the prairies who see Hutterites all the time yet know nothing about them This memoir helps to alleviate the general ignorance and mine in particular about the everyday lives and spiritual beliefs of this communal society Although I could never live this way I now understand the appeal for many of those who do My thanks go to the author for her honest portrayal of her family and community


  9. says:

    I was interested in reading this memoir because I remember seeing Hutterites all the time growing up in Montana In their old fashioned clothes they were very noticable at Target or the supermarket They were viewed as other and we kids heard suspicious and mostly improbable things about the way they lived and what they were like I was hoping this memoir would unravel some of those childhood bigotries and paint a real picture of the Hutterite lifestyle and religionInstead Kirkby writes a series of memories and anecdotes that are sweet but don't seem particularly critical or truthful Certainly as a professional journalist she cannot report on the sheer number of young people abandoning the colonies for the English world but still maintain the idea that most Hutterites are content and happy She doesn't explore the lack of education for the children or women's lack of influence in this patriarchal society or how easily the colony leader can become a virtual dictator I fear that I disliked this book because I wanted something closer to Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven or Wright's Going Clear not one woman's glowing trip down memory lane Which isn't uite fair since the book is decently written and is very sweet and I can easily see it appealing to a segment of the population that isn't me


  10. says:

    So first a caveat at first glance this is totally a chick book I started reading it because well it was free see the legal jargon below and I am a fan of book books and freeness The blurb on the back cover and the various promotions given make it seem as if the book is about a young girl's struggle to fit in to English society after leaving a Hutterite colony in CanadaHowever that was not the case at all The book is instead mostly a narrative of life as a Hutterite Of the 235 pages of the book roughly the last hundred deal with life off of the colony and most of those are recollections of Hutterite life So a much accurate way to describe the book would be this is a description of life in a Hutterite colony as told by someone who lived there until she was ten then left and adapted into mainstream society And I might add a very well written description Kirkby tells her story with wit and ease leading the reader gently through an unfamiliar language and an unfamiliar culture And that really is essential because most of us cannot imagine a culture where Whoever cannot give up his private property as well as his own self will cannot become a disciple and follower of Christ The ungodly go each their own egotistical way of greed and profit To such we should not be conformed45 In a culture where both property and self will are worshipped we would find it jarring to encounter a place where Everyone ate worked and socialized together for the good of all Women did the cooking baking and gardening while men carried out the farming mechanical and carpentry chores 62 63 Kirkby laces her narrative with charming stories that off set the unusual setting and really show that Hutterites differ in dress but not in character from everyone else For example she tells a story that had been relayed to her Hutterite dresses didn't have pockets so most of the women used their bras to store small items such as hairpins safety pins and Kleenex Esther carried tea bags and sugar lumps this way too When an outsider had dropped in to see Esther's husband she sent one of her children for him and offered the stranger a cup of tea nonchalantly pulling a tea bag and two sugar lumps from her bosom When she asked whether he took cream the flabbergasted businessman jumped out of his chair and cried 'No thanks' as he fled the sceneFinally two major things from the book that made me stop and think are1 No one is made holy by being a Hutterite They're just people People with a different lifestyle but people nonetheless They have problems personality conflicts and the thousand big and small difficulties that confront all of us every day 2 We really need to reconsider our ideas of freedom It's fascinating to think that the family felt free living under Hutterite rules which would make most of us modern Americans scream with frustration and oppressed when forced to try to figure out how to live in mainstream culture I was the happy Hutterite girl free from the dress codes and protocol of the English world 175 Overall this is a very well written and enjoyable book Highly recommendedDisclosure of Material Connection I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneezecom book review bloggers program I was not reuired to write a positive review The opinions I have expressed are my own I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255