Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pondering Women's Issues

I got some positive feedback from my discussion of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, so I thought I'd mention another book that really made me think. This is an old book - first published in 1985 - and where I got it is a mystery to me. It was just in our bookshelf and I picked it out to read. I think it could be a hanger-on from Uri's first bachelor's degree in English - seems like the kind of book they would read at Wesleyan.

This is one of the only books I've read twice. Seriously it is that good - it really blew my mind. The book is

The Handmaid's Tale (Everyman's Library)

The Handmaid's Tale (Everyman's Library)

The copy I have is older, probably out of print, but I'm sure it doesn't make a difference. This book has won awards and was adopted for film, stage and radio. It's classified as science fiction but the Author, Margaret Atwood, calls it speculative fiction.

You can learn more about the book in the Wikipedia article, but what I love about it is the themes it explores, especially those about women's rights. The book is one of the main works of dystopian literature from the 1980's; it describes a world where women can no longer own property or read and write, they can not move freely about. The protagonist is a handmaid - a woman who is only used for reproduction. The story is set in a post nuclear-war environment where fertility has plummeted so women who can bear children must be carefully controlled.

This book is chilling to read - the indignities of every day life for all women are cruel and unimaginable. I feel so thankful for all of my freedoms when I consider what the women in this story go through. This book is meant to take a jab at fundamentalist Christianity and what might happen if it the sect got carried away and got control of the government. There are many religious and biblical tones in the book. I guess one reason this book was easier for me to read is that I'm not religious, I'm not sure if people who are faithful Christians would find it more difficult to read.

This is definitely not light summer reading - but I think it's worth a go. It's interesting that it was one of the Top 100 Challenged Books on the ALA's website both from 1990 - 1999 and from 2000 - 2009. I'm thinking that the recent challenged book list is probably a great place to start for my own reading list! A quick scan listed quite a few of my favorites such as Harry Potter, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Stupids (seriously?), Fahrenheit 451 and more. I didn't know my taste was so controversial.