Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World



"I promise: you will be transported," says Bill Moyers of this memoir. Part Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, part Growing Up Amish, and part Little House on the Prairie, this book evokes a lost time, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, when a sheltered little girl named after Shirley Temple entered a family and church caught up in the midst of the cultural changes of the 1950"s and '60's. With gentle humor and clear-eyed affection the author, who grew up to become a college president, tells the story of her first encounters with the "glittering world" and her desire for "fancy" forbidden things she could see but not touch.

The reader enters a plain Mennonite Church building, walks through the meadow, makes sweet and sour feasts in the kitchen and watches the little girl grow up. Along the way, five other children enter the family, one baby sister dies, the family moves to the "home place." The major decisions, whether to join the church, and whether to leave home and become the first person in her family to attend college, will have the reader rooting for the girl to break a new path. In the tradition of Jill Ker Conway's The Road to Coorain, this book details the formation of a future leader who does not yet know she's being prepared to stand up to power and to find her own voice.

The book contains many illustrations and resources, including recipes, a map, and an epilogue about why the author is still Mennonite. Topics covered include the death of a child, Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, the role of bishops in the Mennonite church, the paradoxes of plain life (including fancy cars and the practice of growing tobacco). The drama of passing on the family farm and Mennonite romance and courtship, as the author prepares to leave home for college, create the final challenges of the book.

Product Details

$15.99  $14.71
Herald Press (VA)
Publish Date
September 19, 2013
5.51 X 0.66 X 8.47 inches | 0.84 pounds
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About the Author

Shirley Hershey Showalter grew up in a Mennonite farm family and went on to become the president of Goshen (Indiana) College and a foundation executive at The Fetzer Institute. She is now a writer, speaker, blogger, and consultant living in Harrisonburg, Virginia.


"Not since Kathleen Norris's Dakota: A Spiritual Geography have I read a more beautifully written or movingly told story, one whose minute particulars become a portal into universal significance. I promise: you will be transported."

--Bill Moyers "Reviews"

"Recalled with fairness and wit, this tale of growing up after World War II shows how Mennonite life in Dutch Country--and all of America--changed."

--Julia Spicher Kasdorf "Reviews"

"Shirley Showalter tells a compelling story of spiritual and cultural formation. Hers is a delicate dance between the tug of the outside world and the restraints of her birthright community."

--Donald B. Kraybill "Reviews"

"Whether she is wearing her new letter jacket or biting a worm in two on a dare from her father, the young Shirley will win your affection."

--Ann Hostetler "Reviews"

"Shirley Showalter is both a thoughtful historian and a balanced, inner journalist. She affirms--with detail, honesty, and humility--the need to break our own trail while honoring tradition."

--Mark Nepo "Reviews"

"Showalter's portrait of this extraordinary little girl who wants to be 'big' will captivate and enchant readers of all generations."

--Hildi Froese Tiessen "Reviews"

"This memoir provides an authentic rendition of a plain Mennonite girlhood, so rich in sensory details that it magically transports us into that world."

--Saloma Miller Furlong "Reviews"

"Shirley's stories resonate powerfully with the tension we all live with--between our own aspirations and the expectations of others. You must read this book, and when you do, hang onto your hats and prayer coverings!"

--Tom Beech "Reviews"

"She's a smart, sweetly blushing, baseball-loving, convertible-driving, taking-on-the-bishop kind of girl who delights and inspires."

--Dora Dueck "Reviews"

"Blush is a collection of memories by a woman born with a knack for flirting with boundaries."

--Suzanne Woods Fisher "Reviews"

"With spunk, candor, authentic color, and page-turning style, Shirley Showalter takes us into a girl's experience of the threshold between tradition and cultural shift."

--John L. Ruth "Reviews"

"Like a blush, Showalter's engaging story deepens and intensifies as we discover that there is no such thing as a small life."

--Joanne V. Gabbin "Reviews"

"Shirley Showalter drew me in with the very first lines of her introduction--an audacious confession that sounds the depth of her endeavor."

--Ervin R. Stutzman "Reviews"

"Reading Blush is like eating the most delicious hot apple pie served with something tart, fresh, and zingy. Read it to be inspired by a brave woman willing to find her own voice."

--Jennifer Louden "Reviews"

"To read Shirley Showalter's beautifully written memoir is like stepping into a childhood as far from mine as the moon. Her story is one I longed for my whole life."

--Darrelyn Saloom "Reviews"

"The author-memoirist describes growing up Mennonite; her story affords glimpses into this religion's traditions and rituals. This memoir will interest readers who want to learn about growing up Mennonite."

--Darrelyn Saloom "Reviews"