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“Turning Tragedies into Triumphs:  Stories & Conversations with Torah Bontrager” is a weekly podcast that features amazing and courageous individuals who have come forward to share their stories with the world.  The conversations between two fellow survivors take place over a virtual dining room table in a safe, judgment-free zone where we not only learn about accounts often never publicly disclosed before, but we also learn a little bit more about Torah along the way.

A companion show to her memoir An Amish Girl in Manhattan, Torah created the podcast to emphasize that trauma (of all colors, shapes, and sizes-- not only sexual) knows no boundaries and that her story of repeat sexual assault, abandonment, parental rejection, identity crises, disastrously failed romantic relationships and trust issues are heartbreakingly universal in our national and global cultures. 

Watch the episodes to be inspired and to know that you're not alone and that you don’t have to be extraordinary to be Extraordinary.  New episodes air each Wednesday. 

Please ask us questions and leave comments.  We will read all of them.  We want this to be an interactive show and build a strong community of support both online and offline.  Every four or five episodes, we will do a special "Question and Answer" segment where we pick from what's been submitted.  The more you comment/ask, the higher your chances of getting answered via the special. 

INVITATION CALL:  If you would like to share your story with the world, please contact us at  No story is insignificant.  The seemingly smallest things that happened to us as children can have a lifetime negative impact if left unaddressed.  This podcast and community is designed for you to feel safe, speak out in your own words and experience non-judgment and unconditional love from a human-hood of strong women, men and other/no-genders.

Mar 1, 2017

James Schwartz, author of The Literary Party: Growing up Gay and Amish in America, discusses coming out gay while still in the Amish church, his unconventional Amish education and current politics.  He and his southern Michigan Amish classmates were bussed into the nearest public school to attend classes from kindergarten to eighth grade where they received curriculums different from their “English” (i.e., non-Amish) fellow students.  James had a library card and rode his bicycle to the local library where he enjoyed unsupervised time and learned things about himself and the outside world that he would’t have had access to otherwise.  After James left the church, he was able to transition into the English world through the help of the gay community.  He went to gay clubs and began to write poetry.  James believes that people who leave the Amish community need to have more resources in order to help them transition into the modern world, and that those resources should be accessible without at the expense of being sold on a new fundamentalist religion.


  • The basic varieties of Amish (we’re not homogenous) 
  • James’ view on how the Amish church would accept its LGBT children and members
  • Resources for Amish gays who are both inside and outside the church
  • Torah’s take on Trump


  1. James’ Facebook:
  2. James’ Twitter:  @queeraspoetry
  3. LGBT Amish:
  4. See S1Ep2: Fiona Teng on Growing Up as an Immigrant in California, Fatherlessness, Abandonment and Romantic Relationships for Fiona’s answer to the forgiveness question
  5. See S1Ep3: Sovilla and Lucinda Coblentz on Escaping the Amish as Young Female Teens, Wearing Lipstick and Seeking the Path of Personal Freedom for Sovilla’s insight on Torah’s pre-escape days