The other day I was at the library, searching the biography section, when a title jumped out at me. I’d read an article in the New York Times about Rhoda Janzen, author of the memoir Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, so the title was familiar to me. However, I couldn’t remember why I’d read the article or why the title stuck with me.
Cut to me reading the book, which is about how Janzen returns home to her Mennonite family in California after her life pretty much falls to shit. As I’m reading, I think, the Valley has a large Mennonite community, I wonder if this takes place somewhere near here.
About 150 pages in, Janzen mentions Gottschalks. Stunned to see my former workplace mentioned, I start thinking seriously that the book really could take place in the Valley. A few pages later, the Fresno Fair is referenced. Neat, I think. Janzen has traveled to Fresno before.
It’s not until it’s mentioned, some pages later, that Janzen’s mom volunteers at the Meux Home Museum that I realize the book actually takes place in Fresno, and then I remember that I read the NYT article to begin with because of the Fresno connection. Seriously, Nancy Drew I am not.
Anyway, this isn’t a book review, so I won’t bore you with my opinion about it. I will say, if you’ve ever been interested in the Fresno Mennonite community, or if you just like reading things about Fresno in general, you should check out the book. Janzen paints her family (her dad was president of Fresno Pacific University for ten years) and the community in a humorous light — too humorous for some local Mennonites, as it turns out. Still, the book is more a love letter than a criticism, and worth a quick read.