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Editorial Reviews


Filmmakers, academics, and novelists have offered depictions of Amish life. This memoir offers a nuanced account from a man who straddled both Amish and English (non-Amish) worlds. Wagler recounts his Amish upbringing, from dating conventions and worship services to local gossip and schoolyard bullies. The simplicity of everyday life may seem quaint on the surface. Yet Wagler bravely goes on to expose pervasive dissatisfaction among both youth and adult Amish living in what he characterizes as a stifling, formulaic world. Such unspoken displeasure sparked a cycle of coming and going for the author, who repeatedly crept away from his community only to return, if reluctantly, for its familiarity. It was a paradox that would haunt me for almost ten years: the tug-of-war between two worlds. His tale of restlessness looks acutely at the clash of family ties with love of freedom. The memoir is worthwhile as much for its Amish insights as for its exploration of one man s emotional turmoil, regret, and shame. Wagler, who now works at a building and supply company in Lancaster County, Pa., deserves praise for his honesty. --Publisher's Weekly

About the Author

Ira Wagler was born in the small Old Order Amish community of Aylmer, Ontario. At 17, frustrated by the rules and restrictions of Amish life, Ira got up at 2 am, left a note under his pillow, packed his duffel bag and left. Over the course of the next 5 years, Ira would leave and return home numerous times, torn between the ingrained message that abandoning one's Amish heritage results in eternal damnation, and the freedom and possibilities offered by the "English" world. Upon becoming a Christian at age 26, Ira left the Amish for good. He is currently general manager of Graber Supply, LLC and Pole Building Co. in Lancaster County, PA.

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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: christianaudio; Unabridged edition (April 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610454553
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610454551
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.8 x 5.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (538 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,018,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

I am very interested in the Amish culture.
Debbi Ramos
Growing up Amish is an excellent book ... with great writing and a story that captures the reader.
Janet Oberholtzer
Parts of the book were a little boring and I found myself skipping over some pages.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

147 of 156 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Carmen on June 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
I always wondered what it would be like to be Amish, hoping that my profession as a writer might grant me an opportunity to live life--even just temporarily--among the Amish.

While that has never happened, I have been able to get a closer look into the life of the plain people by Ira Wagler's memoir, "Growing Up Amish." Indeed, Wagler did grow up Amish, but after two decades of wrestling with his peoples' ways, finally left the fold.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Tyndale House Publishers and read it within days of starting. It was captivating as it drew me into his lifestyle and all the heartaches it wreaked for Wagler as he shares how he struggled with his desire to remain with the community he loved and his desire for freedom outside the faith's strict rules.

Wagler's first-person account peels away the facade of piety that we usually imagine when we think of the Amish. They are not perfect, and he showcases many instances that remind us that we are all human, even the Amish. Filled with raw emotion and honesty, "Growing Up Amish" is a riveting and eye-opening tale of life inside this close-knit group of believers.
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73 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Peace on December 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
In his memoir, Growing up Amish, Ira Wangler chronicles his agonizing, decade-long search to find a place where he belongs. Mr. Wangler was born and raised in an Old Order Amish community. His life is stable and predictable, perhaps a bit too predictable for his liking. He experiences his father as emotionally distant and he regards his church in a similar light. As a teenager, he can no longer tolerate the sense of being boxed in by his daily life, his community, and his church, and so he departs from the Amish community and the life he has known and sets off on his own in the "English" world.

I had high hopes for this memoir but ultimately found it an unsatisfying read. The book's title is misleading as the author struggles to adequately provide the reader with a fleshed-out picture of what it is like to grow up Amish. A more accurate title would be Leaving the Amish. His story is that of a lost man. He feels restless and discontented in both in the Amish world and outside of it, and his internal struggle is something he expresses well. The anguish over being unable to find peace with staying or going is palpable as he goes back and forth, attempting to conform and working hard to fit in somewhere. He begs for a "third option" but seems unable to find or create one. Unfortunately, even narrating his own story, he remains at a distance from it and one is never really pulled in enough to deeply understand exactly what his life is like both when he is with the Amish and when he is not. There is a sense of void and emptiness that pervades his story. Certainly, I was left with a sense of sadness about what appears to be lacking in both his childhood and adult life.
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109 of 126 people found the following review helpful By Michael Hoffman on July 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
Ira Wagler's "Growing Up Amish" is an impressive book in part because Wagler can really tell a story. The reader gets the impression that it is a true story (though I would love to hear the other side, from those who are still Amish and are mentioned in the book). When it comes to writing, Ira is obviously his father's son. David Wagler is an Amish author renowned for his eloquence and co-founder of Pathway Publishers.

This book has universal appeal beyond an Amish interest due to its themes -- the quest for freedom, the struggle against tyranny, the father/son divide, modernity versus tradition and the simultaneous torment and elation that freedom brings. The book's title is not entirely accurate. It is only partly about life as an Amish youth. The latter half of the book centers on adulthood and concerns the author's struggle to free himself mentally from his birth-culture's deep roots and enormous spiritual and psychological hold. "Leaving the Amish" would probably have been a more apt title.

If Wagler had not been raised Amish, if he were just another American youth on the path of rebellion against his family and his church, then the villain of this book, aside from the unnamed "mad" Amish bishop in Indiana, whose alleged cruelty struck Ira to his core, would surely have been Ira's father. The son occasionally portrays him as petty, foolish, tyrannical and obsessed with his writing to the detriment of his family. Yet, perhaps in spite of himself, the son adheres to a basic Amish virtue that trumps his resentment -- gratitude. While the book is dedicated to his mother, Ida Mae, on p. vii Ira offers a "special thanks" to his father for "lighting his path.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By BeckyB on June 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
I enjoy books on the Amish - I see I am not alone, as even Wagler, in this book, mentions that people are intrigued by this group of people. But this book was FAR better than any Amish Fiction read! Ira Wagler LIVED Amish - he was born into this people, he struggled to be one of these people, and he tells his story in Growing Up Amish. It really is a story that caught me from the first page - how they live, what they believe, and how some people find it very hard to live in that culture. Wagler is honest and yet tender toward the people he shared much of his life with. I enjoyed every part of this book - his story is sad and still real. This memoir is one I will passing along to friends and encouraging them to read - it gives new insight into these people that intrigue the rest of us - and shows us the reality of "growing up Amish."
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