James Cates offers a fascinating look at Amish views and experiences of marriage, family, sexuality, and gender in the book, Serpent in the Garden: Amish Sexuality in a Changing World. The analysis is based on “many years of interaction, informal interviews, and conversations with Amish confidantes…” (p. xiii). The upside of this approach is that the book has an “insider” feel to it. The downside is that the reader is not always sure how representative the stories are of the Amish community. From the opening story in the Preface to similar, colorful anecdotes throughout, the book may lend itself to a kind of salience bias because accounts are emotionally compelling in areas in which little research with the Amish has been conducted. Cates acknowledges this, as it was brought to his attention by a reviewer. There are the appropriate clarifications and qualifications surrounding the more colorful stories, but still the reader is left with an impression and little knowledge of the frequency of such behaviors. Thus, the representativeness of the accounts and indeed the basic validity of the analysis hinges upon the accuracy, veracity, and wisdom of the personal anecdotal accounts of the author or of those he informally interviewed. [First paragraph.]
Yarhouse, Mark A. 2021. "Review of: Cates, James. 2020. Serpent in the Garden: Amish Sexuality in a Changing World." Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies 9(1):101-03.