Feminist Dystopian Fiction
Once the province of literary fiction (George Orwell's "1984") or science fiction (Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World"), dystopian literature has now entered the mainstream. Within the dystopian genre, several subgenres have emerged. Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale," published in 1985, is considered the first feminist dystopian novel. It is set in a future society, a theocracy, where women have lost all civil rights, cannot own property, and are not even allowed to read. Due to a societal precipitous decline in fertility, women who are able to reproduce are enslaved and forced to bear children for the elite. In the decades since the publication of this landmark novel, more and more authors have considered the effects on women of drastic societal and political change. The titles listed below may be found in the Springfield Greene County Library system.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now....
Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich (2017)
A tale set in a world of reversing evolution and a growing police state follows pregnant 32-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, who investigates her biological family while awaiting the birth of a child who may emerge as a member of a primitive human species.
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan (2011)
In the future, abortion has become a crime as a series of events threatens the existence of the United States. One woman wakes up to discover that her skin color has been changed to red as punishment for having the procedure done. Now she must embark on a dangerous journey in order to find refuge from a hostile and threatening society.
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas (2018)
Five women--including a high school teacher, a pregnant teenager, and a forest-dwelling homeopath--struggle with changes in a near-future America where abortion and assisted fertility have been outlawed and where the homeopath is targeted by a modern-day witch hunt.
Vox by Christina Dalcher (2018)
On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than 100 words per day, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial. This can't happen here. Not in America. Not to her. This is just the beginning. Soon women are not permitted to hold jobs. Girls are not taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke 16,000 words each day, but now women have only 100 to make themselves heard. For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.
The Power by Naomi Alderman (2017)
When a new force takes hold of the world, people from different areas of life are forced to cross paths in an alternate reality that gives women and teenage girls immense physical power that can cause pain and death.
The Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates (2018)
An ingenious, dystopian novel of one young woman's resistance against the constraints of an oppressive society, from the inventive imagination of Joyce Carol Oates
"Time travel" -- and its hazards--are made literal in this astonishing new novel in which a recklessly idealistic girl dares to test the perimeters of her tightly controlled (future) world and is punished by being sent back in time to a region of North America -- "Wainscotia, Wisconsin"--that existed eighty years before. Cast adrift in time in this idyllic Midwestern town she is set upon a course of "rehabilitation"--but cannot resist falling in love with a fellow exile and questioning the constrains of the Wainscotia world with results that are both devastating and liberating.
Arresting and visionary, Hazards of Time Travel is both a novel of harrowing discovery and an exquisitely wrought love story that may be Joyce Carol Oates's most unexpected novel so far.
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh (January 2019)
King has tenderly staked out a territory for his wife and three daughters, Grace, Lia, and Sky. He has lain the barbed wire; he has anchored the buoys in the water; he has marked out a clear message: Do not enter. Or viewed from another angle: Not safe to leave. Here women are protected from the chaos and violence of men on the mainland. The cult-like rituals and therapies they endure fortify them from the spreading toxicity of a degrading world.
But when their father, the only man they've ever seen, disappears, they retreat further inward until the day two men and a boy wash ashore. Over the span of one blistering hot week, a psychological cat-and-mouse game plays out. Sexual tensions and sibling rivalries flare as the sisters confront the amorphous threat the strangers represent. Can they survive the men? A haunting, riveting debut about the capacity for violence and the potency of female desire, "The Water Cure" both devastates and astonishes as it reflects our own world back at us.
Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill (YA) (2015)
Women are no longer born naturally, girls (called "eves") are raised in Schools and trained in the arts of pleasing men until they come of age. Freida and Isabel are best friends. Now, aged 16 and in their final year, they expect to be selected as companions--wives to powerful men. All they have to do is ensure they stay in the top ten beautiful girls in their year. The alternatives--life as a concubine, or a chastity (teaching endless generations of girls)--are too horrible to contemplate. But as the intensity of final year takes hold, the pressure to be perfect mounts. Isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her beauty--her only asset--in peril. And then into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride. Freida must fight for her future--even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known.
Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed (2017)
Starving herself to fend off adulthood in a radical post-apocalypse community where a few chosen men scavenge for detritus and women are little more than breeders, a teen leader investigates a shocking mystery that is contradictory to law before risking her life to organize a girl uprising.
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison (2016)
When she fell asleep, the world was doomed. When she awoke, it was dead. In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth's population-killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant-the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one.
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