Friday’s Food for Thought: The Exploitation of the Amish

For many years, I have been watching the evolution of the Amish genre. In the beginning, when I first submitted Fields of Corn in 1989, the publisher told me that no one would ever want to read a romance book about the Amish. Yet, eight years later, the first romance novels were published by another author and the popularity of the topic, when presented well, exploded.

I have been writing about the Amish for almost thirty years. Over the last five years, my books witnessed the growth in readership as readers discovered Fields of Corn, my first novel. Since then, I have written and published, both as an Indie and a traditional publisher, thirty-five novels, most of which were #1 in Religious Romance as well as Top 100 Amazon Bestsellers.

Amish farm

I present this background before I attempt to conquer the real topic of this blog: the exploitation of the Amish by authors for the purpose of sales, not stories.

More and more authors are jumping into the increasingly shark infested waters of the Amish genre, writers who know nothing about the religion or culture but merely want to put a photo of a badly Photoshopped Amish woman on the cover or simply use the word Amish in the title to attract the attention of the reader.

Open the books and they tend to be poorly written with no content that references the true Amish culture or religion. There is little respect for the very people that the readers long to know through these books.

Most recently, I read a pre-release of a book for an author about the Amish. Previously, I enjoyed this author’s one book that was recommended to me when my Hills of Wheat novel caught some flak for have a questionable pre-martial scene—minus details and they did get married. I reached out to the author to tell her how much I truly enjoyed this historical novel.

The response?

Crickets chirped.

Now, I was asked to write a review on the new book. I left my review vague as I’m not one to bash another author’s work. However, I did comment that the entire story could have taken place anywhere, not just in an Amish community. I failed to mention that the book also seemed to take on a Fifty Shades of Amish with very graphic scenes (including the relief of a man with a sponge in a bath tub) that I, personally, find disrespectful to the Amish and the readers.

It’s just offensive.

Further scrutiny of the characters and their interactions showed more discrepancies: Amish holding hands in front of congregations, Amish husbands greeting their wives with a kiss, pet nicknames, men working bare chested in the fields, and so on. These things simply do not happen. Never mind the confession before the congregation that required children to leave midway. Anyone who knows the Amish would know that the children would never be there to begin with. Those parts of the service are kept “members only” and children are removed prior to the confessions or announcements.

Overall, I was simply disappointed. I felt that the Amish were exploited. Perhaps without the Amish in the book, I would have enjoyed it better. Their exploitation was insulting to me as a writer and a reader of Amish Christian fiction. It continues to make the genre look cheap and contributes to its bad reputation from a literary perspective.

I work hard for my books to be taken seriously…not just because they are Amish Christian, but in spite of that very fact. These types of books just knock the rest of us down a few pegs. But that’s OK. It won’t be the first time I had to get up, brush off the dust from another author who cares more for the sale than the subject, and survived. I imagine you, dear reader, will, too.

28 thoughts on “Friday’s Food for Thought: The Exploitation of the Amish

  1. I appreciate the fact that you took the time to stand up for and with our Amish brothers and sisters. Their religious beliefs and customs are important to be respected . I will not read any books that disrespect that culture that i so love about the Amish. Thank you for being a friend and warrior for these people. And I love your books Sarah. God Bless you.

    1. Hi all. I am so pleased to read your comments. I thought I was alone in this. I read a book recently. I think she alluded to Sarah in the foreword….anyhow she alluded to a respected author of the Amish genre saying something like” I know xxx xxxxx (name of the author) would prefer me to not thank her personally….but thanks xxx xxx for all your help”. And then I read it. I couldn’t believe what I read. I skimmed enough to be sure of my facts to write an honest review and a critique to the publishers, editors. I asked them to be more careful in the future. I named it as soft porn. I accused them of slotting in an Amish character or two for commercial reasons.
      I was horrified. I felt like I’d let the enemy in. I’m 58, Mennonite at heart and attending Gospel Hall. And I felt guilty. For what has been read and seen in my mind’s eye cannot be unseen. I also felt angry.
      Not only were the Amish exploited. I was too. And as for using a respected author’s name in such a sly way. I’m flabbergasted and “ferhoodled” 🙁

      1. I too read a book last year and was very surprised by the content it was about an amish couple and had many parts in it that I thought were very inappropriate I love reading my amish novels and will definitely look before purchasing again thank you Sara for all your great books and the many other amish authors

  2. You are right on the spot. I have purchased a few and would not get very far into the book because of the content. You keep writing Sarah Price

  3. Good for you for stepping up to the plate with your comments. I would never read this type of book with all these falsehoods of the Amish. I have learned so much truth from you and other honest writers in this field.
    Thank you for sticking to your guns and writing true and clean fiction. I thoroughly enjoy your books.

  4. Well said. And thank you. I love reading your book’s and have much respect for these people, the Amish. I can identify with alot of things in their daily lives reminders of my growing up. My parents weren’t Amish but had a respect of importance of work and living off of the land. And respect of family

  5. I can understand your frustration, and appreciate your honesty about the Amish in regards to writing Amish fiction. There is no reason to embellish their stories, as those of us who are true fans have learned what is or is not acceptable to the Amish. Keep up the great work. I love your books, and will not ever consider those that are written just to jump on the Amish band wagon to make some easy money. The truth will prevail, and you and all the great Amish fiction writers will still be writing and selling your books to the masses, while the fly by night writers become history.

  6. Thankfully, I have not read any books which I felt dishonored the Amish. I have read several other authors
    Amish books’, but have read all of yours, I believe. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning customs and beliefs of this religiou sect. Thank you for keeping your books true Christian Amish stories through your own knowledge
    and experiences. Unfortunately, there can always be a few rotten apples or cheats in every occupation.

  7. I have read some Amish novels and have loved them. I have noticed that there seems to be more and more of them being published. I am appalled that any author would chose to write a novel that degrades the Amish. They are a wonderful people whose groups have differing degrees of how strict they are in their religion and that’s another thing that is so appealing to learn more about them. They deserve the respect that they have earned over the many years and to show them in a bad light is disgusting.

  8. Sarah, I have tried to read many other authors on the Amish non fiction and fiction; to no avail for I usually end up deleting the book off my Kindle and wasting my hard earned money on their trash and no way to recoup my loss. I was raised up in Amish country, in Kansas; the Amish do not act like most of the trashy books say they do. They honor their religion, spouse, children, church; the list goes on and on. This 50 shades makes me ill. The Amish still have strong religious convictions, they honor themselves and would never act nor talk disrespectful at all. Where do some of these authors get their info? If I want smut – there is an app for that; and I don’t want smut to read. I am asking that the authors leave my friends, the Amish and Mennonite alone to be the innocent, respectful God Fearing People they are. You know, we don’t have to trash them – they have done nothing to deserve the writers disrespect; so why are writers disrespecting them? Thank you Sarah for keeping the literature I read clean and to my honest and open imagination; its my right to read what I want and I don’t want the smut. There are about 5 authors that I follow and have read all their books – so Sarah, you’d better get busy, I need more reading material! 😉

    1. You can request your money back. Tell Amazon that the book was not Amish fiction or was not Christian based and although I doubt Amazon will take it down, you won’t have to pay for it.

    2. Oh, Sylvia! You’re comment! ” If I want smut – there is an app for that; and I don’t want smut to read” Amen, sista! LOL! That made my day!

  9. Thank you,I am former Amish,I still follow a lot of the Amish beliefs and ways. Some of the so called Amish stories I can not stand to read,they are to far in left field and just not real. Not only that but I see a lot of pictures taken of the Amish that should not be taken. They do not like their pictures taken. It is a shame that so many have to degrade this wonderful culture. People need to leave them alone and let them live their lives in private.

  10. I will continue reading books that I know are well informed about the Amish ways. I have been concerned about all the Amish books that are being published and wondered if the authors were true in their writings. I will stick to authors that I know such as yourself.

  11. JMJ

    Hi Sarah,

    I’m a long-time reader of Amish Christian novels and have a select FEW authors I trust and will read. I’ve read a couple of cheezy books by other authors and figured it would be best for me to stick by the authors I know are tried and true. I’ll probably read someone else’s Amish Christian off-list if, and only IF, recommended by one of the authors I trust.

    I admire our Amish brothers and sisters and respect their lifestyle.

    God bless!

  12. Thank you, thank you. I for one am so glad that you write about the Amish with true heartfelt feelings and respect. If I ever begin to read a book with that filth and garbage, it goes back to the library. I choose to read good Christian books for that reason–don’t like garbage (sexual content, etc). Thank you again.

  13. I believe I have read all of your books. I never hesitate to order your new ones because I know they will be respectful and true to Amish values. I also know you are truly a gifted storyteller. Thank you for giving this gift to us. Thank you for standing up for what you believe in. God bless you Sister Sarah! <3

  14. I love reading Amish fiction, but I am very selective about which Author I chose to read. I have several on my list and over the years even some of those I’ve chosen in the past have been deleted. Thanks for standing up for the true Amish traditions.

  15. Thank you for standing up for the Amish people. I have a lot of respect for them. I have gotten a few books that were not respectful to the Amish and will never buy their books again. I love your books, they are awesome. Keep writing and and I will keep reading your books.

  16. Have read many of your books, and enjoyed all of them. I agree witth you about the exploition of the Amish. We live near many Amish in western NY and so admire their culture, ad respect them very much. They are very friendly here, and do nothing to deserve having their lifestyle used for gain.

  17. I have read a few Amish romance novels and I appreciate the culture and the people. I wish I could have been raised in an Amish community. I admire how they live and work. I respect them as a people who stand up for what they believe in. It seems exploration is everywhere. We cannot stop it. I visit Amish communities quite often as we live close to them. Keep up writing about their kind and I’ll keep reading!!

  18. So thankful that you wrote this and that you feel the same way I do. I love the Amish. They are kind and helpful to not only their own but to others such as me. We have a community near me and I go there as often as I can. Especially if I need picking up a bit. They are always welcoming and seem to enjoy my visits. I have the utmost respect for them and their culture. I would that I could be like them more. I could never use them in any way. I have read a couple “Amish” books that were not at all Christian. Well let me correct that. I started reading them. I have never picked up a book by those authors again. I love your books and have read everyone that Amazon offers!

  19. Sarah, I have read many of your books and you are among several other authors who write good Amish Christian Fiction that I read. I respect you for sticking up for the truth about some of the authors who are just trying to make money by saying they are writing authentic Amish novels. Keep up the good work and I will be looking forward to your new books God Bless

  20. Sarah, I so agree with you! I have been reading Amish fiction/non-fiction for years. I rarely get a book by an unfamiliar Amish author, mainly because the couple of times I have I knew almost immediately they hadn’t done their research! I do a lot of writing, but I have only used Amish references in one story as I don’t want to disrespect them and I don’t believe I did. I am totally fascinated by the culture and had I learned more about it when I was a lot younger, I may very well have joined their religion and lifestyle. Keep up the good work!

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