Joe Mackall | Ashland University

Joe Mackall has lived surrounded by the Swartzentruber Amish community of Ashland County, Ohio, for over sixteen years. They are the most traditional and insular of all the Amish sects: the Swartzentrubers live without gas, electricity, or indoor plumbing; without lights on their buggies or cushioned chairs in their homes; and without rumspringa, the recently popularized "running-around time" that some Amish sects allow their sixteen-year-olds.

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 Boston Globe, 2007  Plain Secrets: An Outsider Among the Amish by Joe Mackall

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Joe Mackall is an associate professor of English and journalism at Ashland University and the editor of the nonfiction journal "River Teeth." His essays have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies as well as on National Public Radio. He has also worked as a reporter for several newspapers, including the "Washington Post."

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Joe Mackall is an associate professor of English and journalism at Ashland University and the editor of the nonfiction journal "River Teeth." His essays have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies as well as on National Public Radio. He has also worked as a reporter for several newspapers, including the "Washington Post."

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Joe Mackall has lived surrounded by the Swartzentruber Amish community of Ashland County, Ohio, for over sixteen years. They are the most traditional and insular of all the Amish sects: the Swartzentrubers live without gas, electricity, or indoor plumbing; without lights on their buggies or cushioned chairs in their homes; and without rumspringa, the recently popularized “running-around time” that some Amish sects allow their sixteen-year-olds.A former journalist with a B.A. from Cleveland State University, M.A. from University of Central Oklahoma, MFA in fiction writing from Bowling Green State University and Ph.D. from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Joe Mackall is director of the creative writing program and instructor of nonfiction writing for the Ashland University MFA program. He is co-founder of and co-editor of the Literary Nonfiction Book Prize Series in partnership with the University of Nebraska Press. He is author of (University of Nebraska Press, 2006) and (Beacon Press, 2007). The Last Street Before Cleveland: An Accidental Pilgrimage will be released in paperback next fall. His articles have been published in a number of newspapers and magazines including andand an interview with him recently aired on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition.”
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Joe Mackall (Author of Plain Secrets) - Goodreads

Joe Mackall has lived surrounded by the Swartzentruber Amish community of Ashland County, Ohio, for over sixteen years. They are the most traditional and insular of all the Amish sects: the Swartzentrubers live without gas, electricity, or indoor plumbing; without lights on their buggies or cushioned chairs in their homes; and without rumspringa, the recently popularized "running-around time" that some Amish sects allow their sixteen-year-olds.

Over the years, Mackall has developed a steady relationship with the Shetler family (Samuel and Mary, their nine children, and their extended family). tells the Shetlers' story over these years, using their lives to paint a portrait of Swartzentruber Amish life and mores. During this time, Samuel's nephew Jonas finally rejects the strictures of the Amish way of life for good, after two failed attempts to leave, and his bright young daughter reaches the end of school for Amish children: the eighth grade. But is also the story of the unusual friendship between Samuel and Joe. Samuel is quietly bemused—and, one suspects, secretly delighted—at Joe's ignorance of crops and planting, carpentry and cattle. He knows Joe is planning to write a book about the family, and yet he allows him a glimpse of the tensions inside this intensely private community.

These and other stories from the life of the family reveal the larger questions posed by the Amish way of life. If the continued existence of the Amish in the midst of modern society asks us to consider the appeal of traditional, highly restrictive, and gendered religious communities, it also asks how we romanticize or condemn these communities—and why. Mackall's attempt to parse these questions—to write as honestly as possible about what he has seen of Amish life—tests his relationship with Samuel and reveals the limits of a friendship between "English" and Amish.

Dan Lehman and Joe Mackall

Joe Mackall: Risking a Friendship to Tell a Story

In addition to these talented writers, River Teeth welcomes a dozen others for the next conference: Jill Christman, Bob Cowser, Jr., Valerie Due, Hope Edelman, Jill Gerard, Steven Harvey, Kate Hopper, Sonya Huber, Dan Lehman, Joe Mackall, Ana Maria Spagna, and Sarah M. Wells.

Books by Joe Mackall:

Joe Mackall | Directory of Writers | Poets & Writers

Beachy, who was ordained in 1970, talked at the library Saturday afternoon. Library patrons are reading "Plain Secrets: An Outsider among the Amish" by Joe Mackall.