What Tim Ferriss
(#1 New York Times best-selling author of The 4-Hour Workweek)
said when he interviewed Torah:
“For those of you who feel trapped because of a job or self-imposed obligations as an entrepreneur, [Torah’s story] will put things in perspective.
“How do you escape your environment if you’re unable to control it? If almost no one on the outside realizes what’s happening?”
Torah’s award-winning story & work have appeared on or in:
Who Should Read the Book?
Amish Girl in Manhattan is for you if you:
- Love memoirs, especially about inspiring and courageous women or girls
- Watch reality TV shows, documentaries, or films about the Amish or other fundamentalist religions like Kingpin, Breaking Amish, Amish Mafia, Unorthodox (Netflix miniseries), Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, etc.
- Can’t get enough true crime
- Are interested in child abuse, sexual abuse, and religious trauma true stories and books like Know My Name, Educated, You Are Your Own, or Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots
- Feel trapped in your job or career
- Are an entrepreneur who feels stuck by self-imposed obligations
Did You Know?
100% of the profits of your purchase go to the Amish Heritage Foundation — a 501(c)(3) nonprofit/NGO — to empower women and girls through education, crisis intervention, and mentoring.
– Know that you’re not crazy or alone
– Become accepting of your PTSD and triggers
– Understand the trauma process
A Glimpse Behind Closed Doors
– What life is really like for Amish women and girls in 21st-century America
– In the form of creative nonfiction
True Stories Well Told
– Each chapter can be read as a stand-alone short story — perfect for busy people and those with ADHD!
A True Crime Memoir
– By the Foremost Expert on the Amish who’s born and raised traditional Amish
“Tomorrow is Christmas,” my mother said, casting a purple stitch. A partial mitten appeared under her knitting needles. Long cracks spidered her hands from the cold temperatures and never-ending daily household chores. Each night, she moisturized with Vaseline—a petroleum jelly— but her hands remained dry and rough. I didn’t like it when she touched my arms or washed my face. Her hands scratched my sensitive skin.
Everyone sat around the living room stove after supper. Joseph slept in a baby basket next to my mother, his pacifier hanging from a string pinned to his homemade dress. In our particular Wisconsin community, little boys wore dresses like the girls until they started walking. Al stacked a pile of wood blocks on the floor. His blond hair, cut in the shape of an upside-down soup bowl, needed an- other trim; the curls were too long and got into his eyes. Rachel pretend-fed milk to her twin faceless Amish dolls dressed in matching dark blue clothes.
“What’s Christmas?” I asked. A picture book slid off my lap and fell on the floor.
. . .
“If you forsake the Amish, God will punish you and send you to hell,” the bishop said. He stood before around eight hundred people seated in a barn. Everyone was dressed in black.
Hard wooden benches with no backs lined the width of the barn and divided it down the middle. Men and boys, their black wide-brimmed hats removed, sat on one side and women and girls, wearing white or black caps with strings knotted below their chins, sat on the other. I was in the women’s section with my mother, my sister just younger than me—six-year-old Rachel—and two-year-old baby Joseph. My father and four-year-old brother Al sat across the aisle with the rest of the men.
Earlier that week, members of the two Amish Church districts in our Wisconsin community had gotten together to prepare for the funeral. They’d moved the bales of hay into a corner and swept the floor clean. But bits of straw floated around from the breeze coming through the open barn door. When the pieces landed, the men and boys leaned down to pick them up. They chewed on the stems—and spit them out—during the long, three- hour service.
A teenage boy lay in the open casket next to the bishop. During rumspringa—a period of time from age sixteen or seventeen until marriage—he’d bought a car and, after a night of drinking and partying, ended up killed in a crash. This shook the community up.
“He was a very bad boy,” my mother had told me when we got the news of the death. She looked grim. “He disobeyed his parents and now he’s going to hell.”
. . .
Around the age of thirteen, I read Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe and learned about the Underground Railroad. Harriet Tubman became my first female role model. In our 300-plus years of history, no female has held a leadership position in the Amish.
Tubman was the first strong, fierce woman I found for guidance in challenging an institution of slavery. What she did for enslaved people inspired me to believe in myself and do whatever it took to set myself free, too. Tubman helped me to see that I could take ownership of myself. I didn’t have to continue obeying abusive masters. I wasn’t someone else’s property. I told myself that if I made it after my escape, I’d help the ones left behind, like Tubman did.
. . .
It’s important to note that there are many good women and men inside the Amish Church who want things to change for the better. An adult or child shouldn’t have to give up the only world they’ve ever known just for a chance at realizing a life of their dreams. The penalty for asking questions, learning, and self-actualization shouldn’t come at the cost of shunning, excommunication, and losing access to and support from your family, community, and heritage.
I want to keep the good parts of my culture and weed out the bad parts. Children deserve safety and love and a chance to make informed decisions about their future. I, as a fifteen-year-old, shouldn’t have had to escape under cover of darkness just to claim my rights to life, liberty, and property. And I shouldn’t have had to lose everything for that chance.
Torah Bontrager is 11 when she decides to leave the Amish.
After four years of planning her escape, she flees in the middle of the night with only the clothes on her back and $170 in her pocket.
Her departure is permanent.
The author guides us through various moments in her life with such honesty and artistry that I felt like I was there by her side.
BRIAN YOUNG, author of Healer of the Water Monster
Couldn't put it down.
This book kept me riveted until the end.
The emotional lows that she went through were so painful and traumatizing that I could empathize with her pain and hope now she can live a better life.
Absolutely a must-read.
This book awakens one to the awful potentials of the closed Amish community.
Tina, Reader Review
Highly recommend . . . inspiring true life story about succeeding despite all odds.
Congratulations to Torah for being able to process her traumatic childhood experiences enough to be able to write a memoir. This is a very inspiring and engaging story about how the author, a 15-year-old female, managed to escape from a terrible situation.
Despite being uneducated at the time her escape and not speaking English as her first language, she then goes on to graduate from one of the most elite universities in the USA.
I highly recommend this to anyone looking for inspiring true life stories about overcoming trauma, self-empowerment (especially female empowerment), and succeeding in life despite all odds.
Keerthi Vemulapalli, Reader Review
Want a sample of my memoir?
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