Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, by Rhoda Janzen

Rhoda Janzen went through a serious rough patch. Her bipolar husband became increasingly abusive and finally (and thankfully) left her. For a guy. A guy named "Bob" he met on Then she incurred severe injuries in a car accident. Still, she survived these travails, with her razor-sharp sense of humor not only intact, but flourishing.
Who are these Mennonites, I always wondered? Are they the ladies with tight little white bonnets covering hair pulled into tight buns? Recently I met a Mennonite woman in a writing class, a lovely secular woman, who shared humorous stories of her tightly-knit people that reminded me, maybe just a little, of the insularity and short-sightedness I sometimes see in my own beloved tightly-knit people, the Jews. In "Mennonite in a Little Black Dress," Janzen tells her story, amidst the backdrop of her Mennonite heritage.
My only complaint about Janzen's memoir -- and is this even a complaint? -- is that sometimes I felt a disconnect, because -- oh my gosh, she went through so much! -- and the contrast between the tragedies that befell Janzen and the glib, deadpan humor she uses to tell her story was, at times, jarring. Still, she is so, so funny. And, when I think about it, maybe humor is the best way to recall the tragedies of our past. After all, if your husband leaves you for a guy named "Bob" from, and, post car accident, you decide to go shopping with a girlfriend while trying to conceal a "pee-bag" under your dress that ends up spilling, maybe the sanest, truest thing to do, is to simply laugh. And reading "Mennonite in a Little Black Dress," I did just that.

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