Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Atwood, Margaret (The Handmaid's Tale)

I was trepidatious re-reading this book. I read it so very long ago, have also watched the 1990s movie, and just started the TV series, which seems to have become a phenom. Maybe my recollection of its original power would be overwhelmed by the current state of the world (or the US, at least) and colored by my current views.

To some degree, that was true. I didn't feel its power quite so strongly - I remember being completely bowled over by Atwood's strange new world that took everything away from women, including everything they'd fought for. I was young and impressionable then, and probably had nightmares that this world was right on my doorstep. I don't feel that way any longer - despite current affairs - and recognize this more as an allegory and a warning, albeit with real world input (ie, other countries' treatment of women).

I was also surprised by some casual racism in the book. It seemed to me that Atwood was indicating that her Marthas were black, even as she dismissed black women entirely early on in the book (moved to resettlement colonies). It was something that continued to unsettle me until I could put my finger on it. The book now seems to fit the cliche of "white feminist dystopian tale", but it's also way easier for me to see that now than when I read it the first time. I am more educated now - in the press, in social media, and in reading books - and that wasn't quite as prevalent a notion (sadly) when Atwood was writing it.

Regardless, it was still a compelling read, and one that I would recommend to anyone, without hesitation.

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