Two years ago, my dear friend and fellow author, Erin Brady, encouraged me to revisit Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, retelling the book from within an Amish setting. Always one to love a challenge, I accepted the idea immediately and began exploring how to tackle such a task.
It wasn’t easy.
You see, the Amish are known to be “Plain.” Both pride and prejudice go against the very core of their culture and religion. If you look hard, however, you might find hints of both, tucked away among the plainness: admiration of overly pretty flower beds, avoidance of messy, unkempt farms, etc. But the truth is that the media tends to portray the Amish as so plain that they begin to appear overtly stern, or they’re depicted as enjoying little in life besides hard work and worship.
Enter my good friend, Lydia.
Over the years, I have been blessed to cultivate a friendship with Lydia, who married the son of my “adopted” Amish family. Lydia is the complete opposite of any vision the media portrays of the Amish. She is warm, inviting, and always happy to sit down with a glass of tea for a visit. Her children dote on her, hanging on her every smile. She laughs as much as she can, listens to stories with focused attention, and generally is one of the happiest people I have met.
When I think about Lydia, she is the quintessential Amish woman. In appearance, she is plain. Her home is plain, her farm is plain, her world is plain. Through her personality, however, she is anything but!
For years, Lydia struggled to have a large family. With only five children and one very large farm to maintain, she dreamed of ten children surrounding her kitchen table. God had other plans for her, however. With tears, she confided in me about her many miscarriages and even told me about her stillborn son. Still, her faith in God never wavered.
Last year, she gave birth to a son, a beautiful baby boy with big blue eyes and curly blond hair. He is a gorgeous child, and one that any mother would be proud to love. Lydia was no different, introducing me to her son with all the love and pride that new mothers feel for their babies. Her older children clamored to hold the baby, hugging him and lavishing him with tickles and kisses. God had, indeed, blessed them with baby Gideon, his face so familiar. Where another family might lament, even for just a moment, the fact that Gideon was born “special,” Lydia and her family displayed the joy of embracing God’s gift to their family through Gideon.
They taught me a lesson. Pride is not always a bad thing. To love God’s gifts and give thanks for His blessings with dignity and honor is not prideful. Lydia showed that to me in her enduring faith in God and absolute delight in His gifts, even when those gifts are not exactly what we anticipated.
As far as prejudice goes, the media’s portrayal of the Amish as excessively stern with families that work their children instead of loving them is completely wrong. While they are people and, as such, you find bad ones within the good, they are, in my opinion, the warmest, most kind-hearted and giving community of people that I have been blessed to meet.
My book, First Impressions, retells the story of Pride and Prejudice, showing the Amish for what they are: real people. However, the essence of their faith, love, and devotion shines through the book. I hope that by incorporating in the book some of my own experiences with living among the Amish that First Impressions will help to continue shatter the media’s stereotypes of these amazing people.
Sarah Price’s family emigrated from Europe in 1705, settling in Pennsylvania as the area’s first wave of Mennonite families. Today, she splits her time between her family in the NYC Metro area and a home that she shares with an Amish woman in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania where she retreats to reflect and write. As a masterful storyteller, Sarah Price prides herself on presenting an authentic Amish experience for her readers. Her latest title is First Impressions: An Amish Tale of Pride and Prejudice.