Release date: September 17, 2018
Title: Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie
How you will get yours: Amazon.com
Release date: September 17, 2018
Title: Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie
How you will get yours: Amazon.com
I haven’t actually been straight with you yet about Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie. As usual, I don’t throw all my cards on the table at once.
So, the story is that the book isn’t only about somewhat-silly/somewhat-naughty Mennonite girls learning about the joys of cheap wine and no curfew. The book is also about what happened to me the first time I came to Costa Rica—how I fell so completely in love with something I was supposed to find curious and interesting. How I fell in love with someone I was supposed to walk away from and forget.
Yeah. I don’t talk about it much. But the book is coming in mid-September, so I’m about to.
Throughout the book, interspersed with the vignettes about that unforgettable summer in that precious and miserable apartment, are snapshots of moments in Costa Rica. I named the town they took place in “Los Rios.” The scenes from Los Rios are placed there to show you what I saw, play the sounds for you, create a moment of the feeling of complete immersion in a different world. The Los Rios segments are spoken in a different voice than the rest of the story. They might almost be considered prose poems, and are told from a more distant, omniscient point of view than the main story of girls in the summer figuring out to survive.
Today I am sharing the first Los Rios scene with you. It’s a picture of a kitchen unlike any kitchen I had ever imagined on any day of my life previous to the day I walked into it. My intent is to convey a sense of stunned admiration and wonder at its essential simplicity, and therefore, its beauty.
On the kitchen in the house in Los Rios, from Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie…
There is no refrigerator in the kitchen. Nothing here requires electricity except the bulb. The kitchen is not even a room in the house; it is a wooden addition with a brushed earth floor connected to the back of the house made of cinderblock. It is neat as a pin. It is virtually empty.
Beside the back door is a woodstove. Is that what I will call it? It does not have a name in my language. They call it the oven but it isn’t that either. On top of a roughhewn wooden base, two open-ended clay ovals are placed, and, inside of them, sticks smolder. There is no stovepipe. Thin white smoke escapes through the spaces that are purposefully left between the boards that form the walls, the space below the roof.
The kitchen sink is a sectioned cement tub. It is set through the wall so that the drain runs into the scorched yard where chickens dash around clucking. Cool water comes from a faucet with a round metal knob like the one outside the farmhouse where my mother hooked up the garden hose on dry August evenings. The sink is also the washer, where every morning Hilda who asks me to call her “Mamá” scrubs the clothes of the day before into spotless submission and drapes them over the barbed wire fence at the back of the yard to dry.
In the shallow section of the sink sets a clay pot, its opening covered by a lid. Inside the pot, the half shell of a round nut called a jiícaro floats on water. When we are thirsty, we reach into the pot, scoop water into the jiícaro and lift it to our lips, cool water running down our chins in the smoke-blackened kitchen. Curling mango leaves skitter and sun stripes slip across the floor.
In this kitchen, more than anywhere else, I am a foreigner. Here, I not only have no words, I am helpless. I do not know how to wash my own clothes. I cannot fry an egg. We do not have cereal or apples or bread. We have rice, beans, tortillas made of corn that my papá, called Tito, grinds. We have canned tuna, sometimes a tomato, a strange sweet custard made of purple corn, stewed chicken for a birthday. When Diego who says he is my brother goes fishing and brings home little bagre, mamá Hilda fries them in boiling vegetable lard, eyeballs and all, and we devour them down to the brains in their heads, driven by a need for nutrients for which we have no names.
Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie will be available from Amazon.com on September 17, 2018.
MARRY A MENNONITE BOY AND MAKE PIE, as you know, is a true story—or more accurately, it is a true set of stories. It is, therefore, a memoir. It’s not a pure-bred memoir, though, because lots of fiction is stirred into the mix. You’re not supposed to do that in memoirs, but I did it anyway, and in this post I am going to tell you why.
The publisher calls MARRY A MENNONITE BOY AND MAKE PIE a “Fictional Memoir,” which is a description that I like. The book is more true than false, but it’s chock full of little lies. I imagine that puts it in the category of “hybrid genre,” which is a thing, and (as I learned) one that big publishing houses are not wild about. That’s ok. Keeps a girl humble.
Here are the 3 reasons that I combined fact with fiction in this book:
1. I fudge the truth to protect people’s privacy. Rather obvious, I imagine. This is why I changed most names except mine and the cat’s, and changed details of people’s families and such like. People who never asked to be written about are going to find themselves on these pages, and I feel like the least I can do is not throw everybody COMPLETELY under the bus. Right?
2. I’ve made things up to fill in the blanks. This is the reason for most of the fiction mixed in with literal memories in MARRY A MENNONITE BOY AND MAKE PIE. Keep in mind that the writing of this book took place over a 20-year period from 1996 through 2017, and during that time I may have sacrificed a few brain cells. There are so many things I don’t remember or never knew. You can’t, for example, write a book about 4 college students living together if you don’t remember one of your roommate’s majors. So, you make it up. And then you have to make up more things in order to make it believable. You end up with quite a web of fabrications. And? The story is still true. Another example is that I don’t remember where Dan went that summer, so I made up some adventures for him. Who cares? The point isn’t what happened while he was gone. The point is what happened to Nina when he came back. I don’t remember where the heck Sheila’s Grandma Friesen lived, so I put her in the retirement community. Sorry, Grandma. I don’t remember what Mean Tabitha really said that upset me so much the night Beth invited her over to dinner, but I remember how I felt about myself and how I felt about her. Etc, etc.
3. I use fiction to develop characters and situations. A conversation with Beth might be mostly or partly fictional because the point of the story is what we talked about and the conclusions we drew, not which exact words we used. The completely fictional segments of the book are there to illustrate a relationship, or a realization, or a dilemma, or dynamic that the combination of actual experience and my imperfect memory couldn’t provide me with. But something still needed to be said. So I made something up—drew my best picture where I didn’t have a photo. And no, I’m not going to tell you which ones they are no matter how nicely you ask.
Apparently, unbeknownst to me, there is some type of debate going on about things like this in the memoir-writing world. I had no idea about this debate because I invest zero effort into discovering what current writing debates are. I just write the things that stand in front of me and won’t get out of the way.
The person who clued me in is someone I contacted to ask for a promotional statement to use on the back of the book. Imagine my surprise when she mentioned that the “mix of fact and fiction” in my book causes her concern because “these kinds of questions are ‘hot’ in memoir writing right now,” and she is unsure of where my “particular blend of these things” puts me “in the debate that’s out there.”
I am sure my eyes widened as I read. Debate? There’s a debate about this? Oh.
My next thought was that I’d better get busy with my friend Google and try to figure out what’s going on with the debate so that I can determine where I am in it. I mean, it’s “hot” and all, right? I wouldn’t want to be some clueless jungle dweller and find myself in the middle of a debate I know nothing about.
Or would I? I think I might.
I’m not going to change the book or retract my story no matter what any “hot debate” says, so maybe ignorance is bliss. This would be a particularly bad time for me to start second guessing my work. (This person was not suggesting that I should second guess anything. She was referencing something that I’m sure she thought I was already aware of, and, in true Diana form, I wasn’t.) I can investigate the “debate” later if I’m curious. I’m not claiming that this book is a straight-up memoir anyway. I’m calling it a fictional memoir. If “hybrid genre” is a genre, then I guess I’m a little confused about why the debate in memoir writing. You can hybridize other genres but not these two? Yo no sé.
I bounced back and forth many times over the years on whether this book should be presented as a novel or a memoir. I had finally settled on “novel” when the New York agent who tried to sell it in 2017 said something to the effect of, “This is a great book but why are you calling your memoir a novel?” Which was a good question because he was completely right.
So sit back and enjoy the ride. Crossing the lines between literary genres is just the beginning of the rules that are going to get broken.
My new book, MARRY A MENNONITE BOY AND MAKE PIE will be coming to you via Workplay Publishing this fall.
What is it about?
Once upon a time, in a mid-west college town, there were 4 girl-women that rented a ramshackle apartment for the summer. They did lots of silly, crazy, and a few potentially-dangerous things as they tried to figure out, like people feeling around a dark room with their hands, how to begin to be adults. They broke rules because they could. They asked questions they were supposed to already know the answers to. The girl-women were Mennonites, or the daughters of Mennonites, or a new generation of Mennonites in full sail toward the edge of what they were told was a flat planet.
This book is written snapshots from that summer, placed together to tell a story. The story is a memoir and it is fiction. Everything is true, some things are false, nothing is impossible.
If you ever had to map your own terrain, if you ever were 20 years old or went to college, if you ever realized that the rules you memorized from the rulebook don’t apply to the game you’re playing, if you ever wondered if you were going mad, you may find snapshots of yourself here. Many of us make the journey. I took pictures.
Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie continues the story begun in my first book, When the Roll is Called a Pyonder, but it is not a direct sequel. It is set 11 years later when that spunky little 9-year-old is just as spunky but not as little. Some of When the Roll is Called a Pyonder‘s audience will also enjoy MARRY A MENNONITE BOY AND MAKE PIE. Some of that audience will be offended. I will do my best to promote this second book in places where it will find appreciation and not create offense. I hope you will join me! Get ready to learn more about it in the coming months as I do my best to give it the promotion it deserves.
In this final reading from “When the Roll is Called a Pyonder,” learn about Mother Zimmerman’s foray in to swimsuit design, discover how to catch a snapping turtle without a trap, and ponder the pros/cons of culotte skirts with “flaps.”
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, find out what on earth prompts little pig-tailed Mennonite girls to begin writing things in notebooks.
Here’s to little Mennonite girls! Cheers!
Birthday month rolls on, and here’s another short reading to celebrate! In this segment, learn about the danger that geese pose to little girls, discover my brief drumming career and find out how I resolve the dilemma of which is worse: risking going to hell for having stolen something, or getting spanked for confessing it.
“When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder” is one year old this month. To celebrate, I’m going to read to you from it. In our opening story, today, the Zimmerman family is stopped for speeding on the way to church…
There’s no introduction because, well, it’s already been introduced.
Reading #1 from “When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder.”
Ever hear of The Drunken Menno Blog? Don’t miss it! It’s smart. It’s hilarious. It’s sometimes pissy and sometimes sweet, undeniably true and always historically correct. With an original Mennonite cocktail recipe to follow each post. Yes! Where has this kindred spirit been all my life? Um, somewhere in Canada.
I sent the author a copy of “When the Roll Is Called a Pyonder,” she read it and has come up with the perfect drink. It’s called The “Green Stick.” If the ironies are too much for you, my apologies. But you are over 21, aren’t you? Then you’re old enough to work it out.
My favorite part is this:
“No one ever really thought about applying our public pacifism to the private realm until the middle of the twentieth century and even then it hasn’t been done consistently. Children posed something of a problem to early Anabaptists…”
I would not have referred to my childhood spankings as “beatings,” although The Drunken Menno does. And I guess if you’re getting smacked with a stick for the purpose of making you cry over something naughty you have done, what you call it is a matter of semantics.
Have a read. Have a snicker. Scratch your head… Cheers!