All right – so I made some additional progress on my goals and read another book that I wouldn’t normally pick up – I Am Hutterite: The Fascinating Story of a Young Woman’s Journey to Reclaim Her Heritage by Mary-Ann Kirkby.
The book is a memoir of Mary-Ann whose family left a Hutterite colony when she was a young girl. You can read more about the Hutterites here for background if you’d like! I thought this book was fascinating because it allowed a glimpse into a different culture – but a different culture within one very similar to ours.
The Hutterite culture is very community-based, with no individual salaries/earnings or property ownership – it’s about working together toward a common goal and supporting one another. Cooking is done in a common kitchen and meals are either taken together as a group or doled out to families. I should caveat that these are the experiences related by Mary-Ann about her community – there are different Hutterite communities with different practices and values.
Mary-Ann is a very relatable protagonist – even though she comes from a very different background – because you see her grapple with many of the issues that all of us deal with. How to fit in, relationships with family and friends, feelings of belonging, struggling with change… All of these things that transcend background and are just human.
One of the most interesting struggles I found in the book is that between the value of a community and the potential for the community to have faults. Mary Ann – and in fact her whole family – really struggle leaving the community. They’ve grown up and been fostered in the community mindset of hard work for a common goal. They all appreciate the mutual support they receive from one another and the closeness that is created by all working and living together. People in the community have healthy food, a lot of activity and love! But there’s also opportunity for corruption and abuse of power – and it is ultimately a leader abusing his power that drives Mary-Ann’s family from their community (or at least that’s the way that I saw it).
I am Hutterite was a fascinating look into a different culture and spoke to some common themes of humanity. I would definitely recommend it to others.