Amish with a Difference
The Secret Voice is an intriguing historical novel with a unique setting: a small town in northern Ohio in 1961. It focuses on two main characters, Daniel Yoder, a fourteen-year-old Amish boy with a desire to attend high school, and Julie Bronson, the new schoolteacher—and the first black person to ever live in Centretown.
Their stories are separate, for the most part. Daniel has to convince his father and the Bishop that wanting to go against Amish culture and continue his education isn’t rebellion or testing the Amish faith, while Julie has to fight bigotry and convince the townspeople that she is a competent teacher despite the colour of her skin. The two are brought together when Daniel finds he has to study Chorus in order to stay in high school, and Julie finds the boy in the odd clothes has an outstanding voice.
There were a few oddities: that such a tiny high school would be able to have a specialist Chorus teacher, for one (she may have taught general music theory or other subjects, but this wasn’t mentioned), that the Amish spoke Amish (not German), and one other that’s a potential spoiler. The writing wasn’t as strong as it could have been, but the story and the characters were strong enough to make up for it.
The Secret Voice is a strong story of two characters seeking to find their place and fit in to a strange and sometimes hostile environment in a time of unprecedented social change. Well worth reading for an insight into two different cultures.