Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I Am Hutterite - Book Review

I Am Hutterite
By Mary Ann Kirby
Polka Dot Press (Saskatchewan)

In 1969, Mary-Ann Kirkby's parents did the unthinkable. They left a Hutterite colony near Portage la Prairie, Manitoba with seven children and little else, to start a new life.

Overnight, the family was thrust into a society they did not understand and which knew little of their unique culture. The transition was overwhelming.

When Mary-Ann leaves Fairholme, she embarks on a mission to reinvent herself. She is put in the awkward position of denying her heritage in order to fit in with her peers. Her book details her painful and often humourous attempts to adapt to popular culture as she comes to terms with the heart-breaking circumstances that led her family to leave community life.

Few Canadians are aware that the prairie region is home to the largest concentration of Hutterites in the world. Their appearance and cloistered lifestyle have often made them the objects of prejudice and suspicion but beneath the black hats and polka dots lies a spirited and proud community of storytellers, artisans, inventors, teachers, carpenters, and agrarians who have made significant contributions to the North American cultural tapestry and economy.

This book takes us inside Fairholme Colony where Mary-Ann Kirkby spent the first ten years of her life. Her intimate portrait of Hutterian people opens a window on a closed community and reveals a way of life that seems extraordinary to the outside world.

As a television reporter, Mary-Ann Kirkby spent years telling the stories of others. Now she is ready to share her own. I Am Hutterite layers the rich traditions of colony life with the stark realities of intolerance and mistrust, weaving a gripping tale that tests the power of forgiveness.

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