Mennonites Talking about Mennonites Talking about Miriam Toews

It’s been 15 days (or so) since the Walrus Magazine published a comic introducing readers across Canada to various Mennonite reactions to Miriam Toews’ work.

Did they imagine we wouldn’t see it and start talking?

Written and illustrated by Jonathan Dyck and Christine Kampen Robinson, who both identify as Manitoba Mennonites, this work features 37 speech bubbles and 40 images of Mennonites engaging with Miriam Toews’ work.

As a Mennonite on Twitter and in real life, I’ve seen this comic used as a catalyst for amusement, speculation and in-fighting.

The quotes in the following listicle may be invented but the sentiments are — well — they’re also invented.

“Oh, no. Now everyone will know we don’t speak with a unified voice.”

“Do I really look like that?”


“Ugh. More about Steinbach. It’s almost like those Manitoba Mennonites don’t know the rest of us exist.”

“Ha, ha. Did you see that one about Rudy Wiebe always being accountable to the community?? I know some MBs who still won’t read Peace Shall Destroy Many.”

“This comic inspired my congregation to use teal for our sanctuary carpet.”

“These aren’t at all like the comments I heard in my Mennonite community.”

“This is even better than reading the letters in the Canadian Mennonite.”

“I don’t think they really captured the nuance of what I was saying.”

“Yup. That’s about right.”

“They should have included that one of Andrew saying there should be a statue of Miriam Toews in Steinbach.”

“Yeah! And also, none of those people have even read her books!”

“That Jonathan is getting pretty good at drawing. He could start doing Church bulletins if he keeps working at it.”

“I don’t get it. Is it supposed to be funny?”

“Pretty good likeness of Rudy Wiebe but I don’t know who the rest of them are.”

“This is amazing – totally captures all the Mennonite expressions.”

“I wish it came with a cocktail recipe”

“This is true but it’s also really embarrassing that we’re like this.”

“I’ve never heard of Christine Kampen Robinson. Who is she and what kind of name is ‘Kampen Robinson’ anyway?”

“Why would they publish this in a national magazine? Don’t they have any real stories to cover?”

“Do you think that haircut would work on me?”

“I wish people would stop going on about Miriam Toews so we could get to the important matter of kicking out Churches who are ok with welcoming those GBLT or whatever people.”

“I didn’t know so many people were in such a tizzy. Maybe I should read one of her books, yet.”

“To be fair, no one said anything bad about All My Puny Sorrows.

“Jonathan Dyck? Is he related to Harvey and Anne?”

“No, I didn’t see it. I stopped reading the Walrus when I heard they had less than exemplary labour practices.”

“I agree with that one in the corner there.”

“I don’t read comics.”

“There aren’t a lot of people of colour. Don’t they know that most Mennonites around the world are in the Global South?”

“Yes, yes, I saw it already. What’s the big deal?”

“I love that we have some Mennonite artists. I just wish they’d use their talents for something useful.”

“That one looks like my sister-in-law but I’m pretty sure she never said that.”

“This is really good.”

“What’s ‘schmauntfat’?”

“I didn’t see it but did you read that other article about the Mennonites and the Mayan beekeepers in Mexico?”

“It just perpetuates the stereotype that all Mennonites ever think about is Miriam Toews.”

“My favorite comic is For Better or Worse. They sure don’t make them like that anymore.

“Maybe now people will realize that we’re not all Old Order Mennonites.”

“Hey, look – there’s a picture of me in the Walrus.”

“I’ve never heard of The Walrus. Is it like Christianity Today or Sojourner’s Magazine?

“If we asked them, do you think they’d design the program for the next Mennonite Gathering or World Conference for free?”

“There’s a spelling mistake in one of the Low German quotes.”

“I’m so glad I left Southern Manitoba. ”

“You kidding me? I would never wear that shade of purple!”

As always, I am here to help that lone voice in the Mennosphere wishing there were cocktail recipes. This cocktail is called The Quotable Mennonite and it features a hue equally suitable to cocktails, comics and sanctuary carpeting. Readers familiar with Tiki drinks will notice a certain similarity to The Blue Hawaiian.

The Quotable Mennonite

  • 1 1/2 oz white rum
  • 1/2 oz blue curacao
  • 1 oz pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz coconut milk

Shake all ingredients together with ice until chilled. Serve in a hurricane glass over more ice. Garnish with a chunk of pineapple and some cherries. Think up something to say and then use the time drinking your cocktail to perfect your word choice and/or reconsider.

2 thoughts on “Mennonites Talking about Mennonites Talking about Miriam Toews

  1. Well, I love anything with blue curacao in it. I hide it in the cupboard with the big bottle of Mexican vanilla.
    Who is this “Miriam” they are talking about?
    Lives in Toronto, I hear, so can’t be a real Menno.

  2. I for one am happy for The Walrus. Oh, those poor, heavily-tusked Menno-lovers were just vibrating with desire for Mennoness to hit critical mass so they could unleash their desperate longing and publish some authentic Mennospeak. And now it’s happened. We are hot as zamp! Non-mennos can finally follow their hearts, don their bonnets and $28 CAD MHV tees and spread the word from the Specific Ocean to da odder von. How vindicated they must feel. How relieved to at last be able to emerge and openly proclaim in print and podcast their unwavering Mennolove–or even–Mennolust? Yes, verily, since the NYT was struck by the radiance of our people, the world has begun to follow. We’re gonna rule pop culture. I can see it now: a permanent Menno panelist on “The View”, a Hymn Sing revival, an all beige Menno menu at Timmies, and the U.S. Defence Budget dipping below “all the money there ever was” levels for the first time in decades. Steinbach will reframe their position and bandwagon-up, rename itself Molotchna and build so many author-walk information kiosks, commemorative obelisks and statues that the local Chicken Chef will start serving squab. Here’s hoping our Warhol 15-minutes does not expire before we all get our angsty, identity-search memoirs printed.

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