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Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl by Marian Beaman

October 10, 2019

Be sure to enter our drawing for one free copy of Marian’s memoir! See directions below.

Another Way for week of October 11, 2019

A Gentler Time? Growing up Plain

I love biographies, autobiographies, and memoir—including the memories of ordinary citizens. When we read a memoir, don’t most of us look for epiphanies and connections that may be similar to our own lives or upbringing?

Marian Longenecker Beaman’s debut book, Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl takes the reader through early childhood events and memories—some of them funny and heartwarming and others that are painful: difficult to take and understand.

Early on I was drawn to Marian’s “Plain and Fancy” blog telling some of these stories. We have the same alma mater, Eastern Mennonite University, but she grew up as a very conservative and plain Mennonite in eastern Pennsylvania while I grew up in a less plain Mennonite community in Indiana a few years behind her. But I also frequently felt different than my peers, wearing dresses all through elementary school along with pigtails and no cut hair until I was about 12. We also both eventually married men who weren’t Mennonites and found new church homes where we practice an active faith.

Marian is a former college English professor, so her writing is crisp and descriptive, with careful and precise word choices that bring alive the action, color, and flavor of growing up a plain Mennonite in Lancaster County, Pa. She lived in an area and era where women especially were expected to dress and behave very conservatively, although she was not Amish or Old Order. Marian chafed under the restrictions and as the oldest child, somehow her father tended to make an example of her. Later as a beginning teacher in the conservative Lancaster Mennonite High School, before church rules began to change regarding dress, she also had scrapes with the school administration.

But her relationships with her mother, grandmother, and an aunt who never married seems to be the balm Marian needs to survive and thrive through her growing up difficulties. She portrays fun and hilarious experiences with her sisters, a brother, and cousins which balance the strain the restrictions put on her spirit in a mid-century Mennonite home. The children play bride and groom clomping about in the bright red shoes portrayed on her book’s cover. Her aunt actually experiments with taking home movies, to the delight of the children. Her exceedingly frugal father eventually buys Marian a beautiful violin—but without ever consulting Marian regarding whether she would enjoy taking violin lessons. She ends up loving to play, including in her public high school’s orchestra, but is confronted with a dilemma when she does not want to stick out like a plain girl when all the other girls have beautiful dresses to wear. Her mother comes to the rescue and sews a suitably “fancy” dress that fits within the confines of their church rules. Marian is elated to blend in with others on stage: a high moment in the memoir.

Marian started her “Plain and Fancy” blog about the same time I began mine, “Finding Harmony Blog.” We regularly exchange comments on each other’s posts and I truly hope we can meet in person someday. But meanwhile, observing that I was/am an editor and writer for a lot of years, she asked me (and others) to go over her memoir manuscript in an early “beta” stage as they say. I gave her feedback and now I am delighted to see that the memoir has earned great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and other places, which helps many others know about an author’s work. Even an author who was once a plain little Mennonite girl, emotionally surviving what we sometimes want to call “a gentler time.” Some of the confrontations Marian went through were hardly gentle—painfully cruel and rough.

Mennonite Daughter comes to a satisfying conclusion as Marian matures into romance, career, and a faith community that fits her spirit and ambitions—free to be the person she wants to be with peace about her past. And the teacher in her still enjoys loving and guiding precious two-year-olds at her church. I feel that many Another Way readers would enjoy this well written and historical glance into a plain culture many wonder about.


Is there anything I’ve written about Marian’s book that especially resonates with you? Marian and I both would love to hear!


You can enter a drawing for a free copy of Mennonite Daughter (deadline Oct. 25) by commenting here on my blog. You can even just say something like “I want to win Marian’s book.” Or, you can send a comment to me at or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834, to be entered in the drawing.

Deadline: I will draw the winner’s name on October 25 at 12 noon, so be sure to send your name or comment as soon as possible! Winner will be announced here and on my Facebook page: melodie.m.davis. I will contact the winner to get her/his mailing address.

You can also visit Marian’s blog for more info on this book:


Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  







  1. Thank you for this, Melodie. I’m glad you are giving generous dates for the drawing. I’ll announce it via a link from my blog post to yours next Wednesday. Again, thanks for featuring me this week!

  2. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler permalink

    One sentence (of many) I enjoy in your review: “But her relationships with her mother, grandmother, and an aunt who never married seems to be the balm Marian needs to survive and thrive through her growing up difficulties. ” Thank you Melodie, for this review, and also for your part in early editing.

    • Good to hear from you again, Dolores. Will enter your name in the giveaway! Thanks for commenting.

    • Dolores, I drew your name today as the winner of the free book Mennonite Daughter. If you send me your mailing address, I will get one copy on the way to you. Please send your snail mail by email to Again, thanks for entering and congrats! –Melodie

    • Dolores, I’m happy to let you know you are the winner of Marian’s fine book. Please send me your snail mail address and I’ll get it in the mail to you. You can send it to my email address Congratulations and thanks for entering the fun!

  3. Mary Edna Miller Frye permalink

    As an “oldest daughter” attempting to break the thread of tradition/dogma while growing up at North Goshen Mennonite, I believe I will encounter familiar scenes while reading Marian Beaman’s book.

    • I believe you will too, as another North Goshen Mennonite! (Is this Mary Miller of Eli’s family??) And of course I’ll enter your name in the drawing!

      • Mary Edna Miller Frye permalink

        My parents were William J (Bill) and Lydia Miller. Four siblings: Myrna, DeVon, Ron and Pam. I do remember your family as members of the congregation.

    • I thought I had responded, especially since we grew up in the same church! Yes, you would enjoy Marian’s book. I’ll put your name in the hopper.

      • Mary Edna: I certainly remember your siblings, and especially Pam, we were the same age and hung out together. Were you older or younger?? See if Pam remembers me. Is she on Facebook? I certainly remember Bill and Lydia well! Thanks for clarifying.

  4. Oh yes, please enter me in the drawing!! Mennonite Daughter sounds like a fascinating read. I’d be drawn to it even without your beautiful review.
    I’ll go check out Marian’s blog too, to read more.
    Thanks for a great post Melodie.

  5. Anna A Bender permalink

    I am intrigued with the stories of Mennonite and Amish women who have chosen a different to express their faith. I also am writing my own memoir and family story and resonate with much of the content you described. Thank you for including me in the drawing.

  6. I’d love to win Marion’s book!

  7. schroedereh permalink

    Would love to have a copy of Marian’s book. Have been following her on her blog ever since she began the process. I will review it here in Canada!

  8. Please enter me in your drawing if it’s not too late 🙂

  9. Bertha Metzler permalink

    Please enter me in the drawing…I want to read this book. I read the write up in the MWR on Sept. 20 issue. Well written.

    • Absolutely we’ll enter your name! I’m glad you saw the write up in the MWR. Yes, Shirley Showalter did a great job on her review.

  10. Jenny permalink

    Please enter me into the drawing. I look forward to Marian’s blog posts on Wednesdays and I’m certain her book is even more enjoyable!

  11. Karen permalink

    Winning Marian’s book would delight me. If I don’t win, her book will have to go on my “want list” for Christmas.

    • A delightful idea of course: my mother told me yesterday that’s what she wanted for Christmas, this book. I will put your name in the hat, Karen!

  12. Gloria Lehman permalink

    This is fascinating! I think Marian and I grew up in neighboring Mennonite communities. Please enter my name in the drawing — I’d love to read this book!

  13. Gloria Miller Holub permalink

    I never win anything, but please enter my name in the drawing! Always love to read a good book!

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