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New book explores growing up gay in the Mennonite community

Crystal Graham
mary alice hostetter nd plain book mennonite
Photo: New Dominion Bookshop

New Dominion Bookshop will host a book reading and signing with author Mary Alice Hostetter on Saturday, Jan. 21, at 4 p.m..

Hostetter will be reading from her new book, Plain: A Memoir of Mennonite Girlhood. This in-person event will be cosponsored by local nonprofit WriterHouse and will be free to attend and open to the public.

Plain tells the story of Mary Alice Hostetter’s journey to define an authentic self amid a rigid religious upbringing in a Mennonite farm family. Although endowed with a personality “prone toward questioning and challenging,” the young Mary Alice at first wants nothing more than to be a good girl, to do her share, and – alongside her 11 siblings – to work her family’s Lancaster County, Penn., farm. She feels fortunate to have been born into a religion where, as the familiar hymn states, she is “safe in the arms of Jesus.”

As an adolescent, that keen desire for belonging becomes focused on her worldly peers, even though she knows that Mennonites consider themselves a people apart. Eventually she leaves behind the fields and fences of her youth, thinking she will finally be able to grow beyond the prohibitions of her church.

Discovering and accepting her sexuality, she once again finds herself apart, on the outside of family, community and societal norms. This quietly powerful memoir of longing and acceptance casts a humanizing eye on a little-understood American religious tradition and a woman’s striving to grow within and beyond it.

Hostetter grew up in a Mennonite farm family and is a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. While pursuing a career in education and human services, with a brief lapse into cheesemaking and restaurant management, she has studied writing whenever and wherever she could.

New Dominion Bookshop is located at 404 E Main St. in Charlottesville.

For more information, visit ndbookshop.com.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.