From the Guest Editor

The idea for a journal issue devoted to writing by Mennonite college students grew out of Ann Hostetler’s Mennonite Literature class at Goshen College in the spring of 2011. During the course Ann challenged her students to gather a selection of writing in multiple genres from students studying at Mennonite colleges or otherwise associated with the Mennonite Church. Among a variety of submissions, the present group of vivid comic essays stood out to the student editors as a group. At the end of the semester we chose to feature this quartet of essays on Mennonite childhood along with Vienna Wagner’s distinctive poems, which explore voice through the use of persona and the personal lyric.

The four personal essayists—Annie Martens, Sarah Rich, Phil Weaver-Stoesz, and Kate Stoltzfus—use the clash of Mennonite culture with popular culture, such as The Babysitters Club and Dungeons and Dragons, to reflect on their childhood discoveries of sin, worldiness, the value and practicality of pacifism, the expression of Christianity in one’s day-to-day life, and even on violence caused by the most nonviolent of intentions. All of these essays were written for a Memoir writing class taught by Jessica Baldanzi during the same semester as Mennonite Literature. Many of the students in Mennonite Literature were also in Memoir. These two courses cross-pollinated profusely and yielded distinctive fruit. I was fortunate to be a student in both courses and, when the semester ended, I continued to edit this issue as part of my summer internship with the CMW.

In both Mennonite Lit and Memoir we learned that the power of the universal comes through the specific. In these essays childhood is the universal, Mennonite is the specific. The comic memoirs here touch on what I’ve found to be true: that, perhaps more than anything else, common childhood experiences bind young Mennonites together. This shouldn’t be surprising. Childhood, is, after all, its own kind of otherness. Everyone has childhood in common.

As the editor of this issue I offer a huge thanks to my Mennonite Literature classmates for their work and discernment, and especially to Sarah Rich, whose judgment and sense of humor were invaluable this last summer as I sculpted the issue. I would also like to express my gratitude to Jessica Baldanzi and Ann Hostetler, whose classrooms and guidance helped to bring these new voices to the conversation.


-Sara Wakefield, Guest Editor

About the Author

Sara Wakefield

Sara Wakefield graduated from Goshen College in 2011 and interned with the Center for Mennonite Writing this past summer. She currently lives in Goshen, Indiana where she is a card-carrying member of Megafauna, a local writers' group, and works as a freelance writer and editor.