'Life on the Sunny Side' Delves into Amish Culture

Apr 5, 2016

Mary Swander, Iowa's Poet Laureate, moved out to the country when she fell ill in 1983. She wanted to be close to where organic, whole foods were grown. Thirty years later, she's gained more than a connection to agriculture--she's gained a connection with a group of people not seen by most of society: the Amish. 

"They are based on the Benedictine monks, so they live like a cloistered community but they have families. They’re supposed to be disconnected from the outside world," she says. "So, now I’m a neighbor, and that’s a very privileged position."

Despite that inherent seclusion, Swander became fascinated in the details and differences of their society, and she began journaling.

"​This is a very different culture. They have a really different world view than our individualistic, capitalistic society. They are capitalistic, but they are also partially communal. They pay in all the taxes we do, but they don’t take anything out. So, they don’t take social security or medicare. Instead, they support each other."

Now, her observations have been collected into a collection of stories, Life on the Sunny Side. Though Swander admits that Amish life can feel very far from the typical American's, she insists that's all the more reason to learn about their way of life.

"It’s a multi-cultural experience. You know, I think it’s good constantly to examine your own beliefs and your own ideals, your own mode of living. It’s made me question every single thing that I do."

In this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe speaks to Swander about her book and about AgArts.org.