Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home

by Rhoda Janzen | Biographies & Memoirs |
ISBN: 0805092250 Global Overview for this book
Registered by alrescate of Strafford, Missouri USA on 2/14/2011
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2 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by alrescate from Strafford, Missouri USA on Monday, February 14, 2011
If you read descriptions of this book, you might think it isn't for you. Who wants to read yet another "memoir" of some woman whose husband has left her? Yet, after hearing the author on NPR, I thought her book sounded interesting...she certainly seemed to have a sense of humor that I liked. So I took a chance and bought the book. I was not disappointed. Janzen has a quirky sense of humor and a flair for writing. I did find Janzen's writing a bit uneven at times and her jumping around the time-line confused me now and then. Overall I really enjoyed reading this book and I think many would enjoy her humorous stories of her family and her relationship with them.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. At first, the worst week of Janzen's life—she gets into a debilitating car wreck right after her husband leaves her for a guy he met on the Internet and saddles her with a mortgage she can't afford—seems to come out of nowhere, but the disaster's long buildup becomes clearer as she opens herself up. Her 15-year relationship with Nick had always been punctuated by manic outbursts and verbally abusive behavior, so recognizing her co-dependent role in their marriage becomes an important part of Janzen's recovery (even as she tweaks the 12 steps just a bit). The healing is further assisted by her decision to move back in with her Mennonite parents, prompting her to look at her childhood religion with fresh, twinkling eyes. (She provides an appendix for those unfamiliar with Mennonite culture, as well as a list of shame-based foods from hot potato salad to borscht.) Janzen is always ready to gently turn the humor back on herself, though, and women will immediately warm to the self-deprecating honesty with which she describes the efforts of friends and family to help her re-establish her emotional well-being. (Oct.)
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Journal Entry 2 by alrescate at Strafford, Missouri USA on Monday, March 28, 2011
I promised this to my friend Antof9 over a month ago but I'm just now getting it to the post office.

Journal Entry 3 by wingAntof9wing at Lakewood, Colorado USA on Thursday, March 31, 2011
I'd forgotten this darling title! Even when you mentioned recently that you were "finally" sending it, I couldn't remember it but I knew I'd like it :)

I love the look of it -- it seems right up my alley ... which is why you sent it to me, I'm sure!

Now I'm eying that stack of library books with due dates...

Journal Entry 4 by wingAntof9wing at Lakewood, Colorado USA on Monday, August 01, 2011
I really enjoyed this! Although many of her stories are specific to Mennonites, there are a good number of her experiences that are similar to immigrant's children, generic conservative Christian families, and also families with stay-at-home-moms. "Shame-based foods", for example, was something I was just discussing the other day with a group of girlfriends, and believe me; I had 'em! No one would trade lunches with me when I had a peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwich :(

This author could take parts of this book and make it into a standup routine. For example, in describing her father, "He is a theologian who believes in a loving God, a servant heart, and a senior discount. Would God be pleased if we spent an unnecessary thirty-one cents at McDonald's? I think not."

The conversation with her mother about a t-shirt that said "in glittery magenta cursive,'NASTY!!!'" could have happened in my house. Of course her mom would say, "Oh well, then you can wear it to work in the garden!"

As if I didn't already feel a kinship with the author on several levels, this sealed the deal for me:
If you also happen to be a grammarian who creepily knows how to diagram every sentence in the English language, there is an even more urgent demand for your services. I'm the sicko who can explain why a gerundive phrase must attach to a possessive adjective pronoun rather than an object pronoun. True, you wouldn't want me at a party, but if the survival of the human race depended upon the successful parsing of the Constitution, you'd be knockin' on my door, baby.

I wish she'd only told stories throughout the whole book - the best parts were all the stories. When she veers into her interpretation (seriously; not the funny parts) of theology, it sort of makes me roll my eyes. Things like "Funny, yes, but tragic too. A man's not to be blamed for his genital deficiency. However, he has complete control over the appetizer." Had me laughing out loud. Her views on God? Not so much.

If you don't read this book, at least get an excerpt of the warm potato salad part (Warmer Kartoffelsalat). It's priceless.

I also love her description of sexiness. "In my opinion, sexiness comes down to three things: chemistry, sense of humor, and treatment of waitstaff at restaurants."

This book was charming and entertaining, and helped me view my Mennonite friends differently. It didn't, however, explain at all to me why "Mennonite" is synonymous with "German" in many ways, but not all. That's strange to me, considering the sidestep into Ukraine she describes in the book.

Am I sending this back to you, Alrescate? I couldn't remember :)

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