Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Amish Twilight, Pioneer Twilight


The other day someone on Twitter mentioned Manor House, a reality series from PBS that follows modern-day people who are picked to live for a few months in a manor house from 1905, who are expected to live the way people did back then. They have to obtain food the way people did back then, follow the customs of the old times, use the same tools, wear the same clothes. They’re assigned certain social standing and have to live out their role without breaking character based on what that sort of person would have done back then. I was excited to hear about this as I’ve already seen PBS’s Frontier House and Colonial House which follow the same concepts.

I decided then that I needed to write about something I like to call #AmishTwilight and #PioneerTwilight. You may or may not be aware of a genre of books written mainly for women, set in a couple of very specific settings. Just as you have science fiction and mystery and romance genres in books, you also have subgenres of historical fiction. A couple very popular subgenres focus on women living in the pioneer days of the United States, and women in Amish communities during the last 50 years or so.

These books are sometimes written on their own, but much of the time they’re part of series, just like Harry Potter or V.C. Andrews. Yes, I read V.C. Andrews and I read her stuff waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyy earlier than I ever should have. You all know what Flowers in the Attic is, right? ‘Nuff said. Oh, are you familiar with the ABC Family series of movies that are all like, “Love’s Enduring Promise” and “Love’s Unending Faith” and “Love’s Pithy Remark” and so on? Those movies (which are based on a series of books) are a perfect example #PioneerTwilight.

You have a central character which is a Headstrong Young Women making her way out west with her family, sometime in the 1800’s. Unfortunate events happen. Axles break, people get dysentery – I mean, what is this, the Oregon Trail? Oh, yes, it kind of is. So HYW must make a way out of no way (Amen) and at some point she falls in love and has babies. The series of books follows her and the other characters, and in some cases she gets old and the books focus on her daughter who is of course a HYW. And so on.

Now, #AmishTwilight is usually in more modern times, but are usually based in Lancaster County, PA – or someplace similar – in the middle of an Amish community. The stories focus on a (you guessed it) HYW who is butting up against her Amish upbringing in some way. Maybe she (Ruth) loves Jakob but her father wants her to marry Caleb! And she doesn’t just want to be a midwife, she want to be a doctor! But only Englischers (the rest of us) put faith in that sort of thing . . . Oh man, once I read a series where the main HYW was in love with  - wait for it – A MENNONITE!!!!! *gasp*

I know, y’all. This is heady stuff. So – these sort of books are like brain candy for me. I’ve ALWAYS loved historical fiction of all types and I’ve always loved books that detail the way people cooked, farmed, raised animals, made clothes, etc – back in the old days before everything was automated. As a girl I ate up the Little House on the Prairie series as well as Anne of Green Gables. Well, #AmishTwilight and #PioneerTwilight are the grown up versions of these series.

Oh, and what’s with the Twilight? Well, they’re series of books – so, Twilight. The main character is a HYW – Twilight (though I’ll say, dude, Bella turned really wishy washy and consumed with Edward, and ew?). Focus on the dude HYW is in love with – Twilight. Easy reading that is a nice break for your brain – Twilight. Obsessive following of readers – Twilight. All these things about Twilight are also part and parcel for the Amish & Pioneer series of books.

Next time you’re looking for some good reading that doesn’t require much brain activity but is fun and culturally interesting, check out these authors:

#PioneerTwilight: Janette Oke, Tracie Peterson, Lauraine Snelling

#AmishTwilight: Cindy Woodsmall, Marta Perry, Beth Wiseman, Wanda Brunstetter

And y’all, there are TONS more. Just ask your librarian.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I LOVED the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I need to own a set rather than just the memory of some that were loaned to me. Plus, I heart The Waltons even though I really should hate it.

I think I'd like Pioneer Twilight. Amish Twilight, maybe not so much.

My grandma, before she died, wrote down her story of growing up on a farm in Iowa. A couple of my cousins insisted she self-publish, and I am so glad they did. She was born in 1913, so it involves making your own soap, being dirt poor, etc. So, I kind of have my own reference text for this stuff. Hey, blog post idea!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I think there's a whole series of Mormon books similarly themed.
I do dig Jeanette Oke and Jan Karon, but that's kind of my limit in this genre!

Ashley said...

Nic, I wanted to live with the Waltons! I also wanted to live in the Swiss Family Robinson tree house.

I would LOVE to read what your grandmother wrote, if possible.

Melissa, I am going to have to look into the Mormon books! I really don't have any recommendations of one author over another, I tend to just grab whichever complete series is available at the library so I don't end up having to wait until someone else returns the final book.

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