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Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels (Young Center Books in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies) Paperback – February 25, 2013
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"The promise of the cover is borne out by the content: an engaging analysis of 'bonnet rippers' and their audience."(Marilyn Dahl Shelf Awareness)
"Weaver-Zercher’s book is a fascinating read, that raises some questions about this increasingly popular genre, but also tries to add complexity to our understandings of how Amish fiction functions."(Femonite)
" Thrill of the Chaste is an entertaining read... [Weaver-Zercher's] light, engaging voice makes her ideas accessible. I found myself caught up in her rich, often humorous descriptions... Weaver-Zercher redeems the genre and its readers."(Melanie Springer Mock Mennonite World Review)
"The unusual subject of Amish romance is treated engagingly in this crossover book... Highly recommended."(Choice)
"Weaver-Zercher’s book-length exploration is not only a groundbreaking contribution to an area that deserves more study, but also an excellent read, as all-consuming and hard to put down for this scholar of American literature and popular culture as Amish romance novels are for their devoted fans."(Mennonite Quarterly Review)
" Thrill of the Chaste is a well-written, well-researched, and very readable study of this fast growing fictional subgenre, and Weaver-Zercher sheds much light on the importance of these texts for understanding contemporary American culture... A major contribution to literary analysis, this book will fascinate all who have wondered about the Amish and why so many people want to read about them."(Karen M. Johnson-Weiner Yearbook of German-American Studies)
"Weaver-Zercher has made a significant contribution to the field with a very comprehensive and scholarly approach to the "bonnet fiction" phenomenon of the 21st century... Thrill of the Chaste is of interest to anyone working with reader-response theories, the uses and functions of popular literature, and the commodification of culture and cultural products. Weaver-Zercher's book is importantly about the history and evolution of the genre; however, the most significant contribution that the book makes is its examination and evaluation of the publishing industry that is both meeting and creating demand for the genre."(Lorie Sauble-Otto Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature)
"Articulate, relevant and beautifully written... [ Thrill of the Chaste] is very accessible to those who will give themselves to it. Those who choose to read it will undoubtedly find themselves more discriminating readers."(Pauline Stevick Brethren in Christ History and Life)
"In this comprehensive book, Valerie Weaver-Zercher explores the recent phenomenon of Amish "bonnet fiction"... In well-written, engaging prose, Weaver-Zercher argues convincingly that this genre is production-drive in nature."(Beth E Graybill Nova Religio)
"Timely and engaging... Thrill of the Chaste is an eminently readable book... This is a welcome text for a number of fields; we will, indeed, be writing about it for some time."(Robert Zacharias Conrad Grebel Review)
"Weaver-Zercher's energetic and witty study reaches beyond an examination of the popularity of Amish fiction for individual readers."(Dawn LLwellyn Journal of Contemporary Religion)
"As Valerie Weaver-Zercher tracks the sources, emergence, and sudden rise of Amish romance fiction, she looks deeply at the writers, readers, and cultural changes that conspired to create the phenomenon. She writes with passion, principle, and wit, raiding academic disciplines to create a more-than-intelligent analysis of 'bonnet books.'"(Julia Spicher Kasdorf, author of The Body and the Book: Writing from a Mennonite Life)
"Readable and engaging, Thrill of the Chaste studies the exploding subgenre of Amish fiction from every angle: Why is it so popular? What are readers seeking? Do these stories truly reflect the Amish? What motivates the authors? The publishers? Sometimes hard-hitting but always fair, Weaver-Zercher's fascinating book is a must-read for anyone interested in the plain life."(Suzanne Woods Fisher, author of Amish fiction and host of Amish Wisdom)
"The scholarship is sound―the author deftly incorporates theoretical, historical, and sociological research into her extensive study of the genre, its producers, and its readers. The prose is both lovely and lively. Quite simply, a delight to read."(Lynn Neal, Wake Forest University)
About the Author
Valerie Weaver-Zercher is a writer and editor whose work has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Mennonite Weekly Review, and elsewhere.
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Top customer reviews
I am more than casually interested in the subject. I am an American Studies scholar who finds sudden eruptions on the cultural scene, like the popularity of dime novels in the nineteenth century or of Amish fiction in the last five years, utterly fascinating. What makes a genre wax or wane? What does it say about the readers, authors, culture, and subject?
Did you know that every four days a new Amish fiction book rolls off the press? And that millions of these books are sold not just in tourist gift shops but also in Costco and Walmart stores?
Valerie Weaver-Zercher leaves no stone unturned, no hem unstitched, as she examines possible reasons for this phenomenon. Along the way she examines literary theory, religious history, cultural theory, and even theology. She is especially good at analyzing how Amish stories, images, and values are commodified by others and sold in the marketplace, sometimes with Amish complicity, but rarely at their initiation.
Weaver-Zercher doesn't just glide over theory; she immerses herself in one, then another, looking in all directions at Amish fiction and at both Amish and Evangelical Christian cultures (where the majority of the authors and readers locate themselves). The careful research exhibited here far exceeds that of some dissertations. The notes and bibliography take up fifty pages. And they are nearly as fascinating as the text.
This book could be just another academic postmodern treatise full of jargon and meta-everything. But it isn't. I found myself laughing at the droll description of the books and at the author's own mixed feelings about reading Amish fiction. The wit will win you over even if the theory seems alien. The humor is also not condescending but rather seeks to be fair and compassionate to every actor. The taut verbs and original metaphors jump off the page.
So what does the author conclude? The mass outpouring of these books arose post 9-11 in an anxious, hypermodern, and hypersexual culture. After the Amish schoolhouse shootings in 2006 brought the issue of forgiveness to worldwide attention, Amish people became even stronger, and more positive, icons, even as their practices and values seemed unattainable.
The few highly successful Amish fiction authors, especially Beverly Lewis and Wanda Brunstetter, who entered the field early, were joined by many more. Only one contemporary writer of Amish fiction, Linda Byler, is an Amish woman herself.
The evangelical writers emphasize a personal salvation that is familiar and yet alien to the Amish, whose theology is deeply communal. Amish theology is also radical in its interpretation of nonresistance (which others call pacifism), a theme that gets almost no emphasis in Amish fiction, possibly because it fits less well with the worldview of the authors and most readers.
I was encouraged, as a Mennonite memoirist, to know that now is a time in U. S. history when stories of Amish and Mennonite life resonate with conscious and unconscious needs within the larger culture. I was even more hopeful about the finding that readers are turning more and more to nonfiction as well as fiction. "Real-life" stories may eventually round out the picture that fiction began.
We live in an Amish area, so for us the subject was of particular interest.
The author includes suggestions about choosing books written about a religious community carefully.
For personal and professional reasons (Amish family origins and working in publishing), I believe I read all the novels she mentions from Sabina and Rosanna to Katie and Ellie--up until Beverly Lewis. So I was well acquainted with the genre. What Weaver-Zuercher does so well is place the recent popularity of Beverly Lewis and Wanda Brunstetter Amish romances in historical antecedents, marketing strategies, critical theory, author reader responses, religious beliefs, and publishing realities.
If you are looking for a diatribe against or a cheerleader for this type of Christian novel, this book may disappoint. For all others, Weaver-Zercher is a wise, helpful and entertaining guide. Levi Miller