Now in paperback, and with a new preface, Julia Kasdorf's The Body and the Book: Writing from a Mennonite Life investigates the often difficult relationships among writing, community, and belief. In the ten essays collected here--presented in relation to poetry as well as photographs and other illustrations--Kasdorf draws on family stories, historical documentation, and her own experiences to examine aspects of Mennonite life and explore a variety of themes, including gender, community, silence, place, identity, and the body.
In each of the four sections of The Body and the Book, Kasdorf tries to reconcile her profession with the practical wisdom and habitual silence of her Mennonite heritage. In the first section, she delves into the old Amish settlement where her parents grew up and its lasting influence on her. The second section focuses on the obstacles she faces as a woman writing from a traditional and ethnic religious background. In each essay in the third section, she uses a historical episode as an occasion to explore the complex interconnections among voice, body, gender, and religious tradition. And in the last section, she demonstrates how writing enables an author to integrate disparate experiences and memories. Even as she strives to create herself as an individual, she cannot fully separate from the Mennonite heritage that has shaped her.