Curiosities and Challenges about the Amish and my Book

Earlier this month an Ohio library invited me to speak and to sell and sign my book.

After I arrived and set up my book table, hung the Amish clothes, and booted up my power point, the librarian introduced me. The mixed audience leaned forward and eagerly listened while I showed authentic Amish clothes and shared my story. I detailed my experiences with the "fence jumpers" and about my book, Beyond Buggies and Bonnets: Seven true stories of former Amish.

From the back of the room, a man shot up his hand. After I acknowledged him, he asked, "Why aren't there as many women as guys who leave and stay out?"

"Because - in my experience - the guys are born with a hammer in their hand. They easily find construction work. Some are hired on a farm." I said. "But Amish girls are groomed for childbearing, childcare, cleaning and cooking. Those are low-paying jobs in our society. If the gals can't find one of these jobs - or even if they do - they struggle financially and often return to the Amish where the family or a husband takes care of them."

Then a lady blurted, "Since you help Amish become English, have any of the Amish shunned you?"

Smiling at her misconception I emphasized, "I do not help Amish leave. Those I've met and helped had already made that life-changing decision. Some I met months after they were out."

Then she challenged, "Do the Amish talk to you even though you're depleting their base?"

"Well. . . " I paused and pondered. "When most Amish family consist of 10 or more children, Statistically, there are about 290,000 Amish living in the U.S. I doubt I'm depleting that number by helping those who've left. Birth control is verboten -- that's why most families are large."

I continued to explain that the Amish is a fast-growing population, in fact it doubles every 20 years!

Their attrition rate is a mystery as they don't usually participate in the U.S. Census, nor do Amish parents want to admit that they have kids who've left.

I try to help those I meet after they've left. I do not always get involved with ex-Amish. Some are employed and already have housing when we meet so I offer a warm welcome. There are ex-Amish all over our country and there are other people like me who reach out to help or mentor.

"And," I added, "many ex-Amish help out their friends or family who later leave."

"Your book title is intriguing. Can you explain it?" asked another man.

"The title is a double-entendre," I answered. "I want readers to think of Amish as more than mere buggies and bonnets -- they're a complicated, diverse culture. And I want readers to learn about those who've ventured beyond their buggy and bonnet.

"Have you helped female ex-Amish?" asked a woman.

"Yes, I've had females in my home as well as young men." Adding, "Not at the same time, of course." The audience chuckled and I heard murmurs around the room.

In the front row, a woman slowly raised her hand. I looked at her and she quietly asked, "Have you met ex-Amish who later went back to Amish?"

"Oh yes! I personally know three who left then went back."


"Different reasons. Some couldn't adjust to our lifestyle, others were too homesick. I think some leave because they have this image of the English. Later they discover their disillusionment."

Our hour together sped to an end. I thanked the audience for their attention and questions. "Questions are how we learn," I reminded with a grin.

What about you? What question will help you learn about the ex-Amish or my book? Leave it below in the Comments section.

(C) Brenda Nixon, 2016.


  1. "When most Amish family consist of 10 or more children"

    At least according to the books I have read on the Amish (Nolt and Kraybill), the average is 7 children, although a significant minority have ten or more.

    1. Hi David and thanks for reading so carefully.
      In my experiences with the strictest order - Swartzentruber - and what my blog mostly focuses on, families do have 10+ children. The strict (or lower) orders make birth control verboten. Here's a short list of the ex-Amish I've helped and the number of children in their family. . .
      Mosie - 12 children
      Harvey - 12 children
      Noah - 19 children
      Uria - 12 children
      Jacob - 15 children
      Josh - 12 children
      Sarah & Monroe are the exception - 5 children

      Now if one looks across the broad culture, then perhaps the average is 7 children. This diverse culture of 40 different orders is broad, one cannot say "All Amish do this," or "All Amish do that." We, Americans, are as diverse as the Amish.