Ode to Mennonot

Mennonot, a zine “For Mennos [i.e., Mennonites] on the Margins,” published thirteen issues between 1993 and 2003 (though issue 12 appeared in 1999 and issue 13 did not appear until four years later). Happily, the full set has just been put online for free here. Mennonot included commentary on the state of institutional Mennonitism, interviews, reader rants, humor, and poetry by important Mennonite writers such as Julia Spicher Kasdorf, Jeff Gundy, and Patrick Friesen. It provided an important safe space for people who were raised Mennonite, but had questions about the tradition to air their “heretical” thoughts and encounter ideas from others going through a similar struggle. Retrospectively, I think that its most important contribution was its early (by Mennonite standards), unwavering advocacy for LGBT rights both in the Church and in broader society. There are numerous articles and letters from LGBT persons throughout Mennonot‘s run, beginning with the first issue.

I first encountered Mennonot towards the end of college, reading the last three issues, but I haven’t thought about it much since then. It feels good to get reacquainted! I’ve been reading through it for the past week or so, which has been enjoyable. It is fascinating to see what issues were important to “Mennonots” (a label which currently describes me) twenty years ago. Sadly, the institutional Mennonite Church is still nearly as oppressive of women and LGBT persons now as it was then.

Published by danielshankcruz

I grew up in New York City and lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Goshen, Indiana; DeKalb, Illinois; and Salt Lake City, Utah before coming to Utica, New York. My mother’s family is Swiss-German Mennonite (i.e., it’s an ethnicity, not necessarily a theological persuasion) and my father’s family is Puerto Rican. I have a Ph.D. in English and currently teach at Utica College. I have also taught at Northern Illinois University and Westminster College in Salt Lake City. My teaching and scholarship are motivated by a passion for social justice, which is why my research focuses on the literature of oppressed groups, especially LGBT persons and people of color. While I primarily read and write about fiction, I am also a devoted reader of poetry because, as William Carlos Williams writes, “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet [people] die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” Thinkers who influence me include Marina Abramovic, Kathy Acker, Di Brandt, Ana Castillo, Samuel R. Delany, Percival Everett, Essex Hemphill, Jane Jacobs, Walt Whitman, and the New York School of poets. I am also fond of queer Mennonite writers such as Stephen Beachy, Jan Guenther Braun, Lynnette Dueck/D’anna, and Casey Plett. In my free time I’m either reading, writing the occasional poem, playing board games (especially Scrabble, backgammon, and chess), watching sports (Let’s Go, Mets!), or cooking (curries, stews, roasts…).

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