I Am Hutterite by Mary Ann Kirkby

My aunt Jeanne, with whom I share very similar taste in stories, sent me this recent memoir of a girl who grew up in a Hutterite colony called I Am Hutterite.  I had never before heard of Hutterites, but the group is over 500 years old and live communally in parts of Canada and the Northern Prairies in the US.

We have a lot of conversations around our house and with friends about community.  What is community?  How much do you have to share before you are communal?  How do people survive conflict in community?  Or make decisions.

I was immediate fascinated with this true story about the ups and downs of a completely communal society.

A lot of the details answered questions for me that about how something like this could possibly ever work.  The Hutterite systems for how things are decided and accomplished are beautifully organized.  And though things on the colony are not perfect, life flows pretty seamlessly.  Work, play, worship and rest flow in a routine that makes a lot of sense when viewed from the crazy rat maze that most of us occupy.

I was especially enamored with the communal kitchen and eating.  Being in the kitchen with lots of other women enjoying the tasks of preparing foods from scratch together appeals to me immensely.  Of course, I am just coming off of the holiday cooking, feasting and cleaning together with the women in my family.

What is special about this gal’s story is that her family left the colony when she was ten years old.  Not only did she lose what was in many ways a safe, idyllic childhood setting, but she also had to adapt to a world that was completely foreign.  The tales of how she and her six siblings took on the various challenges of sticking out like sore thumbs in a mainstream school were among my favorite in the book.

While she did adapt to the outside world and to life away from the routine of the colony, she still carries in her soul the time she spent at Fairholme Hutterite Colony, so much so that she affirms even with the title of the book that she is indeed at heart, a Hutterite.

So beautiful.  I think I’m choosing it for my book club selection this spring.


  1. Alison~
    SO neat to see this book. There are LOTS of Hutterite colonies in South Dakota! As a matter of fact, I have been to MANY of them. We used to hang out with the Hutterite children (they spoke a form of German Russian, a low German if you will) and we never let that stop our games. We also ate with them and bought THE freshest turkerys, chickens and homemade goodies from them. YOU, my sweet, pure organic chick, would LOVE their meals etc.

    I can’t wait to read this. COOL!

    1. Becky, that is so cool…I would love to visit one, hang out in the kitchen and share some meals.

      Maybe we’ll tag along the next time you go home.

  2. I hope for our book club! My grandma is from Prairie country in Saskatchewan, but I haven’t heard of that. I always thought it would be cool to have houses that all opened up into a common play area/courtyard where the kids could all play together and you had a joint party kitchen would be so neat.

    1. Yes I’m up in March, so this is what we’ll be reading!

  3. hi alison i just read ur article about the book. i like the fact that u dont think huuterites are wierd for their communal living. i myself am a hutterite girl and there is no other place id rather live even thuogh things are quite different then they were back then when that book was written. We still do all things communal but each person is still entitled to their privacy. its a great life but requires alot of self denial!have a great day

    1. Vanessa,
      Thanks so much for your comment!

      I would love to hear more about what the colonies are like today. And I appreciate hearing that you love your life in a communal setting.

      Somehow, I just think it is closer to what we were truly made for.

      1. sometimes we just take this life so much 4 granted that it takes a stranger to help us appreciate it more! The things i love the most is that when somebody is grieving the whole community can pull 2gether n grieve with them n the same thing when someone is rejoicing everybody shares the joy and it just multiplies itself.I know that they had a lot of friction at the colony where Maryann grew up but it definitly isnt like that at every community. its possible to live 2gether n love n be loved by everyone!Thanks so much…God Bless You!

  4. […] read this book about Hutterites last year and at the back of the book was this wonderfully simple recipe for a […]

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