Welcome to my Q & A Interview Series and book Promotion. I am delighted to be interviewing writer, blogger, and newly published author, Marian Beaman. Marian has very recently published her debut book – Mennonite Daughter, her memoir, which I highly recommend. Marian grew up as a Mennonite girl while all the while yearning to shed her plain Mennonite clothes for a more stylish and fancier wardrobe. Her book takes us through her strict upbringing to her eventual emancipation from the norms she grew up with while still keeping the faith.
Marian Longenecker Beaman is a former professor at Florida State College in Jacksonville, Florida. Her memoir records the charms and challenges of growing up in the strict culture of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference in the 1950s. Marian shares her story to preserve these memories and to leave a legacy for future generations.
Find her weekly blog at https://marianbeaman.com. She lives with her husband Cliff in Florida, where her grown children and grandchildren also reside.
What if the Mennonite life young Marian Longenecker chafed against offered the chance for a new beginning? What if her two Lancaster County homes with three generations of family were the perfect launch pad for a brighter future? Readers who long for a simpler life can smell the aroma of saffron-infused potpie in Grandma’s kitchen, hear the strains of four-part a capella music at church, and see the miracle of a divine healing.
Follow the author in pigtails as a child and later with a prayer cap, bucking a heavy-handed father and challenging church rules. Feel the terror of being locked behind a cellar door. Observe the horror of feeling defenseless before a conclave of bishops, an event propelling her into a different world.
Fans of coming-of-age stories will delight in one woman’s surprising path toward self-discovery, a self that lets her revel in shiny red shoes.
Time to get to know more about Marian:
1. Do events in your daily life inspire your writing ideas?
Yes! When my sisters and I cleared out Aunt Ruthie’s house, I discovered her diaries.
Entries in these pages from the 1930s have become fodder for blog ideas. Also, I write about events in my current life. Not long ago, I accidentally smashed two traffic cones meant to block a set of gas pumps at the WaWa Station. The aftermath of that
embarrassing experience became a blog post with loads of comments.
DG – Okay, you know I read your posts weekly, I seemed to have missed that one. Now I’m curious, be right over to check it out!
2. What prompted you to write in your chosen genre?
For years, I wanted to leave a legacy of stories for posterity, my grandchildren especially. Memoir is the genre most suited for stories inspired by memory. Meeting scores of memoirists online gave me the courage to begin, and then to persevere. Writing of any sort, especially memoir, is not for sissies.
DG – Ain’t that the truth Marian! Lol, I hear you loud and clear.
3. Do your books have messages in them? If so, what are the messages you feel are well received by your readers?
I told the story of my Mennonite girlhood, recording both the charms of a sheltered life and the challenges I faced, challenges I did not sugarcoat. I had an adversarial
relationship with my father, a theme traced from the first to the last chapter. The message of forgiveness emerged as I wrote, one told (I hope) without sounding didactic or resentful.
DG – Yes, I got that in the book – the struggle for forgiveness. Like you, that was exactly when I learned forgiveness for my mother, while writing P.S. I Forgive You.
5-Star Review by Laurie Buchanan, author of Note Self: A Seven-Step Guide to
Gratitude and Growth and The Business of Being: Soul Purpose In and Out of the
I expected to find kindness in Marian Longenecker Beaman’s memoir, MENNONITE DAUGHTER: THE STORY OF A PLAIN GIRL. And I did. The unexpected — abuse — came in gritty remembrances of a young girl’s search for identity, one that isn’t plain.
In this captivating look at a patriarchal culture, Beaman’s writing imbues simple scenes with complex emotional undercurrents that kept me turning the pages right to the satisfying end. I highly recommend this book.
My review for Marian’s book:
September 13, 2019
Mennonite Daughter is a beautifully written story about the growing up life and aspirations of one feisty and longing-to-be fancy girl who although practicing her faith obediently, longs to be free from some of the conforms of the Mennonite lifestyle.
Beaman, a girl, not unlike any other girlie girl, striving for her chance at a life free from head coverings and traditional clothing, as her desires since childhood grow to break free from tradition. We learn a lot about the Mennonite way of life, Beaman’s life, the close knit family and community life, and the antiquated punishments inflicted on her by her father, and about the mother who never interjected on those punishments, all because she spoke out for her convictions. The whippings and being locked in a dark, scary basement were the weapons of choice as punishments and discipline for her non-compliance in a world of which we’d now consider as child abuse. One heart trembling sentence that stood out to me, “I always watched for signs that Daddy was about to explode, so I wonder why I didn’t stop before I ignite the fire.” We’ll learn once again, as many writers like myself have lived and wrote about, if we search for the ‘why’ in someone’s behavior, we’ll almost always find the root cause.
The heartaches in this book are palpable through the pages for this straight A student who received no recognition or validation from her parents; and the welcomed tender mercies she did receive from her dear Aunt Ruthie and her paternal grandmother Longenecker. It seemed any moments the little girl felt excitement for were often quashed by disappointment. One example of this was in the chapter – ‘Tomato Girl gets a Bike’ – Young Mennonite Marian helped work the tomato farms tirelessly, both planting and reaping the fruits of labor. She received 10 cents a basket for her labor from her frugal father, and as reward for her upcoming birthday he promised he would buy her a bike. She held her excitement in anticipation until she felt as though she wasn’t worthy enough when her father eventually presented her with a well worn bike instead.
The author takes us through her life with a giant glimpse into the Mennonite world, sharing the religion, her beliefs, chores, and family gatherings – even photos and recipes are included, to demonstrate her world of godliness and her struggle to endure conformity, hoping that some day she will get to wear those red shoes! I loved this book! #Recommended.
Marian is sharing an Excerpt
Chapter 25, Great Grandpa Sam: A Hoot and a Holler
“There’s no feller quite so yeller like my liver,” I repeated out loud one of Great Grandpa Sam’s silly sayings. What color should liver really be? I wondered. But a yellow liver must be funny because Grandpa laughed loud when he said it.
Grandma Fanny Longenecker’s father, Samuel Brinser Martin, who moved from the farm in Hillsdale and lived with Grandma and Aunt Ruthie close to Rheems in his late eighties, figured large in my childhood as the Martin family patriarch.
A still “snap” from Aunt Ruthie’s movies shows Grandpa in a blue denim jacket buttoned up to his neck and a denim hat with a long, wide farmer bill, which his daughter, Grandma, referred to as a “schnovel.” In movie footage when Aunt Ruthie, the eye behind the camera lens, must have prompted him to walk, he held his body erect, taking sure steps even though blind, his arms swinging like a pendulum. Then, swiveling on the ball of his foot, he turned to retrace his steps.
Wiry Great Grandpa Samuel B. Martin, a jolly little man, had an Old MacDonald-type farm with chickens, a couple of cows, two horses, and maybe a pig, though, I never heard an oink-oink-oink either here or there. Grandma and Grandpa Martin’s was a Jack Sprat-type union, with his wife Mary as generous and open-hearted as she was ample. I heard this description so often as a child, it has since become fact in my mind. She loved to cook and eat in large portions. Great Grandma Mary died the year before I was born, so I never met the hospitable woman whom I’m told often invited strangers to the family table and made space for the homeless to sleep upstairs in a family bedroom. A portrait of the extended family “freindschaft” of at least thirty gathered in front of lilac bushes showed bunny-cheeked Great-Grandma Mary Horst Martin in the first row, with a crinkly smile, her laughing eyes in sharp contrast to her prayer-capped head and a long, dark dress topped with a cape shaped like a triangle, pointed to a “V” at her waist.
Until he died at age ninety-four, my Grandma Longenecker’s dad, Great-Grandpa, lived with his daughter Fannie and granddaughter, my Aunt Ruthie. My sisters and I thought him curious and amusing. We usually found him sitting on his cushioned chair between the door and one section of the bay window in Grandma’s kitchen, turning the huge knobs of a blaring radio, loud, louder, and extra loud.
Great-Grandpa had no teeth to speak of. What he had were rotted, drawing his mouth into an “O” like an old mountaineer’s. After meals, he shook some salt into his hand, threw his head way back, opened up and sucked in the salt. It made a loud pop!— his mouth an echo chamber. Long since retired from the rigors of farming, Great-Grandpa could afford the time to be a one-man comedy show for my sisters and me. . . .
You can find Marian on her blog and social media:
Amazon author page URL:
It was a pleasure having Marian over today to showcase her beautiful book. If you love memoirs, family stories, and success stories, I highly recommend this book.