My Amish Roots by Shawn Smucker

I’ve done my fair share of poking fun of the Amish on this blog, but it’s all in good spirits. Many of you don’t know this, but my father-in-law was actually Amish until he was 3, when his parents decided to leave the Amish church. How ’bout them road apples?

If you’re fascinated by the Amish and/or you love good writing, you should pick up a copy of my friend Shawn Smucker’s book, My Amish Roots. In the book Shawn traces back his family lineage over hundreds of years, crafting intriguing stories from the records he was able to dig up and the interviews he conducted with family members. As with everything Shawn does, it’s really well written.

I asked Shawn a couple questions about the Amish and his book, and here were his responses…


1. Have you ever read a Beverly Lewis book or any other piece of Amish Fiction?

I’ve never read any Amish fiction. Because I live among the Amish and still have Amish family members, I feel like I know the Amish pretty well, and the way they are portrayed on television or in the movies is usually riddled with inaccuracies (e.g. the movie “Witness”).

I guess growing up around them has also kind of taken away the fascination for me, and I don’t have a huge desire to read about their lifestyle.

2. What’s something very unique about the Amish Community that most people don’t know?

All of the Amish people I know are super competitive and love to play games and compete in contests. There is a 5k here in the small town of Bird-in-Hand (I think your wife Erica ran in the half-marathon), and a lot of the competitors were Amish. In fact, an Amish guy took 2nd place, running in his full Amish garb (long pants, suspenders and high top sneakers)! Talk about a reluctant runner. I think he ran the 3.2 miles in about 18 minutes. Most of them love card games (as long as they’re not played with traditional playing cards), and the young people play softball and volleyball non-stop (as chronicled in many of your photos).

In Pinecraft, Florida, where many Amish spend the winter, the old Amish guys are on the shuffleboard courts from morning until night. I imagine this love of competition challenges their ability to maintain pious, humble countenances, but they’re able to suppress any prideful outbursts (I have yet to see one of those old Amish men do an endzone dance or strike the Tebow pose after winning).

3. Considering your background I’m sure you had given thought in the past to what it would have been like to have grown up Amish and how you might be a different person. After writing this book how has that perspective changed, if at all?

That’s a great question. I often wonder what I’d be like if my grandparent’s hadn’t left the Amish. What if I grew up Amish? I used to think I’d be a vastly different person, but after compiling all of these stories about my ancestors, I realized that many of them were very much like me.

For example, my great-great-grandfather loved to write, even keeping track of local happenings by writing about them on the inside of his barn walls (his journal from 1893-1896 is included in my book). My great-grandmother loved telling stories. And as I interact with more and more Amish people and talk to them about this book, I’ve crossed paths with a lot of Amish folks who love to write.

I’m realizing now that, even if I was Amish, I probably wouldn’t be vastly different from who I am today.

Any chance you’re giving copies of your book away?

I am. I’m actually running a fun promotion through the end of the year at my blog. If you subscribe to my mailing list by submitting your email address in the sidebar of my blog you will have a chance to win. Each Friday from now until Christmas, I’ll be giving out a free copy of my book to two randomly chosen subscribers. And, on the last Friday of December, I’ll randomly choose one subscriber who will win one copy of each of my four books. I thought it was a good way to ring out 2011 in style. A bookish style. Something along the lines of a partying librarian.

Sounds great, thanks for playing along Shawn!


Shawn lives in Paradise, PA with his wife, four children, four chickens, and a rabbit named Rosie. His latest book, My Amish Roots, explores the roles of family, death, life, tradition, & legacy against the backdrop of his Amish ancestry. He blogs daily at about writing, the strange things his children say, and postmodern Christianity.