Saturday, January 9, 2010

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen

With razor sharp wit, Rhoda Janzen skewers her life and serves it up to the reader in the delightful little memoir Mennonite in a Little Black Dress. Janzen, a professor of poetry, is a master of language--with the poet's trusty economy she uses just the right word at the right time--even her expletives are judiciously (if frequently) applied. Raised in a close-knit Mennonite family, Janzen wanted nothing more as a child than to escape a rigid religious world. After a string of bad luck in middle age, Janzen returns to live with her parents to heal and reflect...and to write. She balances her perspective between guilelessness and knowledge so perfectly that her childhood frustrations blend seamlessly with those of adulthood. (Her school lunch of borscht mortally embarrasses her; her husband leaves her for someone he met on But the most intriguing theme of the book is Janzen's love/hate relationship with Christianity. She is quick to poke fun (and it is fun to read, believe me) at Jesus lovers, but she can't help but swoon when she hears the old hymns. Mostly, Janzen's fondness for the Mennonite community she once fled comes through loud and clear.

Interesting note: Since writing this book, Janzen has remarried and undergone treatment for breast cancer. Also, she earned one of her degrees, a Masters in Creative Writing, I think, from the University of Florida just down the road a piece.

Many thanks to T.M for passing on this book to me. She always gets me the good stuff.

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