Bookshelf

Bookshelf provides descriptions and notices of recent publications on Pennsylvania subjects.

Who Are the Amish?

by Merle Good
Good Books, 1985 (128 pages, paper, $15.95)

Brimming with bright, warm and expressive photo­graphs, and supplemented by informative commentary, this photo-essay serves as an excellent primer to under­standing the Amish way of life. The author, long respected for his work with Amish and Mennonite socie­ties, has provided a genuine service to both the Amish and the curious by explaining even the most basic of Amish ideals and beliefs. In fact, the essay will prove valuable even to those familiar with the Amish and their lifestyle. The ten­-page chapters are titled variously – and basically – as “The Amish School,” “Belong­ing Together,” “The Barnrais­ing” and “Struggles and Problems.” The author’s sympathetic explanations will foster understanding and respect for what otherwise may appear as “quaint” or “odd.” More than an introduc­tion to the Amish, the book is an exciting invitation for readers to cultivate an under­standing and respect for the gentle people. Approached as an alternative to contemporary lifestyle, the Amish culture is probed and investigated – as are its strengths and weaknesses. While certainly not perfect nor utopian, the Amish culture’s advantages overshadow its disadvantages. The reader is imbued with respect for a thoughtful people, bound not solely by tradition, but broadened by it, with an enviable response to a philosophy of life and living. Who Are the Amish? is a delightful, quality publication which will intrigue the unfamiliar while offering an undeniable appreciation and understanding to those famil­iar with the sect.

 

In the Heart of Pennsylvania

by Jeanette Lasansky
Oral Traditions Project, 1985 (104 pages, paper, $15.95)

The recent surge of interest in antique quilts and quilting has spawned a plethora of valuable books. Among them is this excellent study by the director of the Oral Traditions Project headquartered in Lewisburg, Union County. For twelve years, project members have conducted “community quilt documentation days” to catalogue, document and photograph as many area quilts as possible. Reflecting the concern for oral history as well, interviews and question­naires were completed by quiltmakers and their families to study myths, practices and trends of the art of quilting. The information is skillfully incorporated in the book’s two sections: a discussion of quilt­ing styles and their evolution is followed by a color-illus­trated portfolio showcasing the resplendent works of art. Excerpts from period journals and books are scattered throughout, as are portraits of the quiltmakers themselves, to create a foundation for under­standing the pieces in their historical and familial contexts. The quilts are discussed not only by categories of patterns, but also as they conform to the changes in styles and attitudes. The author points to the introduction and rise of national women’s magazines and quilting kits which tended to standardize tastes, colors and styles. In the Heart of Pennsylvania is a beautiful volume, enhanced by numer­ous illustrations, which will delight the amateur while satisfying the more scholarly inclined.

 

Monessen: Industrial Boomtown and Steel Community, 1898-1980

by Matthew S. Magda
Pennsyl­vania Historical and Museum Commission, 1985 (152 pages, paper, $3.50)

When the effects of the burgeoning industrial age swept through the nation at the turn of the century, the lifestyles and fortunes of many fluctuated accordingly. The recent efforts to record the recollections of those who lived during these years now comprise a great and enriching storehouse of knowledge and insight. Monessen is such a study: by recording the words and impressions of the community’s residents, preserving their ethnicity and personality intact, the reader is given a firsthand look at this important, but largely unchronicled, era of history. Monessen was spawned on the banks of the Monongahela River by a group of Pittsburgh industrialists and business­men, and steel and tin indus­tries were attracted to the area. Eventually Monessen became a leading industrial center. Waves of European immigrants followed. Blacks and Mexicans were introduced to the region – many as strike­breakers. The history and concerns of Monessen are by no means unique; rather, the community was chosen as a representative and the rewarding result is a focused and individual interpretation echoing a national experience. Reconstructing the commu­nity’s growth from its 1898 beginnings, through the rise of labor and prosperity, to its bleak present and future, Monessen – complimented by informative essays preceding each chapter – provides a thorough documentation of the perceptions and reflections of the people most closely tied to this industrialized area.