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University of Iowa News Release


March 5, 2009

New UI Press book, available March 15, explores the life of the Amish

"Visits with the Amish: Impressions of the Plain Life" by Linda Egenes, illustrated with woodcuts by Caldecott Medal-winner Mary Azarian, will become available March 15 from the Bur Oak Books series of the University of Iowa Press.

The book will be available at bookstores or directly from the UI Press by phone at 800-621-2736 or online at Customers in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East or Africa may order from the Eurospan Group online at

Egenes visited with her Old Order Amish neighbors in southeast Iowa for 13 years before writing this introduction to the way of life of people who use no electricity or phones, travel by horse and buggy, and till their fields by animal power.

Drawn to their slower pace of life and their resistance to the lures of a consumer society, Egenes found a warm welcome among the Amish, and in return she has provided an equally warm perspective on Amish family life as she experienced it. The Amish value harmony in family life above all, and Egenes witnessed that harmony as she savored homemade ice cream in a kitchen where the refrigerator ran on kerosene, learned to milk a two-bucket cow, helped cook dinner for nine in a summer kitchen, spent the day in a one-room schoolhouse and sang "The Hymn of Praise" in its original German at Sunday service.

Scott Savage, author, "A Plain Life: Walking My Belief," wrote, "'Visits with the Amish' is as gentle and open as the lives of the people it chronicles. The detailed mini-portraits are compassionate yet as candid and observant as anything written about the plain people that I have read. By honestly sketching the little things of everyday Amish culture, Egenes manages to capture the faithful heart of this community of believers."

Iowa's new Poet Laureate, UI Writers' Workshop alumna Mary Swander, called the book, "Direct, respectful and informative": "'Visits with the Amish' takes us into the very homes and businesses of the plain people. There we enter a culture so different from the American mainstream that we are forced to examine our own spiritual beliefs, identities and values. This slim, quiet book should assume a big place on the bookshelves of anyone interested in anthropology, religion, folklore or sustainable living."

Egenes has written about the Amish for Cobblestone, Plain, the Iowa Source, and the Plain Reader. She is an adjunct faculty member at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. Azarian, who lives in Vermont, won the Caldecott Medal in 1999 for her illustrations in "Snowflake Bentley."

Recognizing the richness of Midwestern heritage, the original and reprinted Bur Oak Books, named after the state tree of Iowa, represent the UI Press's dedication to preserving the literature, history, geography and culture of the heartland.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Allison Thomas, UI Press,; Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073,