Female Agency and Dystopia

Dystopian-NovelsWhen Margaret Atwood introduced The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985, she called it an “antiprediction,” explaining: “If this future can be described in detail, maybe it won’t happen.” The last few years have seen a slew of laws and rulings restrict women’s sexual and reproductive rights in numerous states and anti-women measures and sentiments echoed in the highest offices of the federal government—developments that seem eerily reminiscent of the world Atwood described. Two recent novels, Red Clocks and The Power, build on the genre of The Handmaid’s Tale by reimagining the fate of female agency with the urgency of our time.

More on the Ploughshares blog…

The Alchemy of Science and Storytelling

Hiking inside the Hoh Rainforest of Washington earlier this summer, I stopped for a moment, remembering Robin Wall Kimmerer’s descriptions of immersing herself in wilderness and taking time to listen. Gradually, my ears attuned to the fall of mist and birdsong around me. I knelt low to observe the tendrils of mosses, droplets of dew, and soft crumbles of soil spilling off glistening mushrooms. My walk among the towering ancient cedars took on new meaning after reading Braiding Sweetgrass, with Kimmerer’s words—like these ones—having seeped into me:

Here in the rainforest, I don’t want to just be a bystander to rain, passive and protected; I want to be part of the downpour, to be soaked, along with the dark humus that squishes underfoot. I wish that I could stand like a shaggy cedar with rain seeping into my bark, that water could dissolve the barrier between us. I want to feel what the cedars feel and know what they know.

Read more about Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass and Alan Lightman’s Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine on the Ploughshares blog.