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  • Tara Sonin 4:00 pm on 2019/10/18 Permalink
    Tags: amal el-mohtar, , christina dalcher, , , , joanne ramos, , , , , , , , , , , this is how you lose the time war, , vengeful,   

    9 Books to Read if You Loved The Testaments 

    In 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale  was published as a terrifyingly possible prophecy about the dangers of the small, seemingly insignificant choices that can lead even the most advanced, modern societies into a world that barely resembles the one they knew. Margaret Atwood is famous for saying that everything which occurs in the dystopian novel is pulled from real, recorded historical events—meaning that the fictional society known as Gilead could happen anywhere, even at home where we feel most safe.

    Legions of readers followed Offred’s story as a Handmaid in Gilead, one of many women forced to bear and relinquish children into the care of their captors. Offred’s first child, born in a free America, is stolen from her before the novel begins, and when the novel ends her fate is unknown, faded into darkness as the van she steps in may be taking her to freedom, or to her doom.

    In the thirty-five years since its publication, The Handmaid’s Tale has become an international bestseller and received the television treatment as a Hulu show starring Elizabeth Moss. But the fascination with the story has only led to more questions: what happened next? Did Offred survive? Did she have another child? How was Gilead created, and even more urgently: how did it fall?

    The Testaments (which was B&N’s September Book Club pick!) is Atwood’s answer to those questions: a new novel, taking place fifteen years after the conclusion of one that started it all. From the perspective of three different women (two within Gilead, one beyond its borders), the story follows both the early origins of Gilead and its essential founders as well as a dangerous plot to destroy the country from within.

    Without spoiling the revelations learned in the story, I can say The Testaments is a truly satisfying novel for both fans of the original book and the show (and fans of just the show can read it and will not be lost for a second) and answers most, if not all, of the questions offered above. The characters are complex and flawed, and their arcs—both redemptive and tragic—are wholly satisfying. For example, the architect of Gilead’s downfall will be a delightful surprise to fans of the show, and provides a future potentially award-winning turn for at least one actress who currently appears on it, should the show decide to pursue The Testaments as a continuation. But I will say this: If The Handmaid’s Tale was a prophet of doom for women’s rights, The Testaments is a beacon of hope. It is a manifesto on female courage and resilience, one that I think many readers will find welcome in 2019.

    When you finish it, check out our readalike picks below!

    Vox, by Christina Dalcher
    In The Testaments, the world is defined by keeping women subjugated, mainly in the name of reproduction. But in Vox, female subjugation has another, insidious element: women are no longer allowed to speak more than 100 words a day, or a device embedded into their skin will shock them. Jean McClellan, a former cognitive linguist (who lost her job as a result of these new laws) watches as her young daughter already knows to silence herself, expecting rewards for how little she speaks, and her teenage son sinks into dangerously abusive territory where he sympathizes with the government more than his own mother. But when an opportunity arises for Jean to regain her voice and fight the oppression from within, she knows this is her one and only shot to make a better life for her daughter and protect her only son from himself. She must engage in lies and deceit with the people she loves most in order to save them—that is, if she’s not caught first.

    Red Clocks, by Leni Zumas
    In an America eerily similar to that of Gilead’s beginnings, abortion is no longer legal. That of course doesn’t mean that people aren’t obtaining abortions, it means they are going outside the system, to women such as Gin, an herbalist who lives on the outskirts of a small Oregon town…who suddenly becomes a national spectacle when she is accused of and tried for providing such a service. Her story interweaves with that of three others: a single woman desperately trying to get pregnant before the law only allows married couples to have children; a mother of two in a dangerous marriage; and a teenage girl who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. The characters are what make this novel memorable, as they all go to great lengths to get what they want in a world that forbids them to want anything.

    Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers
    How is a YA historical novel that takes place during Medieval France a readalike for The Testaments? Well, let me tell you: because in 14th Century Brittany, life for women was kind of like a dystopia. The main character of Robin LaFevers’ brilliant Grave Mercy is about to be married off to a terrible man and she has no say in the matter. In fact, women during this time often turned to convents and took sacred vows in order to gain more autonomy and freedom than they would have had as married mothers. That is what Ismae does—to escape bondage, she swears to serve the God of Death and in his service, kill other terrible men who deserve it. The elite sisterhood of assassins she joins makes her feel powerful for the first time in her life…until she falls in love with a man she doesn’t entirely trust. Romance, swordplay, and feminism all in one series—of which there are five books to binge!

    Vengeful (Vicious #2), by V.E. Schwab
    No one writes villains the way V.E. Schwab does. The first book in this duology, Vicious, focused on male villainy, when two friends at college discover the secret to developing ExtraOrdinary superpowers and as a result, become enemies each bent on destroying the other. The second book, though (which should technically be read after Vicious for continuity’s sake) is all about female anger, villainy…and justice? This is where it connects to the world of The Testaments for me; it’s a novel in which we see female characters do terrible things in order to attain justice. In Vengeful, women take center stage and are determined to use their ExtraOrdinary abilities not only for self-preservation, but for ultimate power, no matter the cost.

    This is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
    Readers of The Testaments who love watching the ultimate takedown of Gilead from within will love this unique sci-fi novella about two agents on opposite sides of a war throughout time. Red and Blue are supposed to be enemies, but when they start exchanging letters , that begins to change. With literally out-of-this-world prose that sets the pages on fire, the love story that unfolds against the backdrop of tyrannical rule is an unforgettable reminder that even in the darkest of times, love wins.

    Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
    Gilead’s beginnings are not just rooted in patriarchy, but in a global health crisis: plummeting fertility rates force people into extreme panic, during which a fringe group seizes control. Station Eleven also begins with a health crisis, but a different one: an flu pandemic that ravages most of modern society, forcing the world into a version of the Dark Ages where people search for pockets of the civilization they once knew. This literary page-turner follows a group of actors as they perform Shakespeare twenty years after the collapse of modernity. When a dangerous prophet threatens the peaceful existence they’ve managed to carve out for themselves, the survivors have a choice to make that could determine their survival.

    The Farm, by Joanne Ramos
    Possibly the most direct readalike on the list, this novel is about women who have children for other women in a place known as the Farm. The deal is this: a huge payday in exchange for nine months of your time growing a baby that, once birthed, will go to the person who paid for it. Jane agrees to be a ‘Host’, but soon realizes there’s another, hidden cost to this agreement: she can’t leave as long as she’s pregnant, or she forfeits the fee she so desperately needs to help her actual family, the one she loves beyond the walls of the Farm. An eerie, modern approach to similar questions addressed by Atwood’s novels.

    What did you think of The Testaments?

    The post 9 Books to Read if You Loved <i>The Testaments</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jen Harper 2:00 pm on 2019/10/02 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , christina dalcher, , , , , , naomi alderman, , , , , the power, , , yoko ogawa   

    8 Books to Read if You Loved The Testaments, September’s B&N Book Club Selection 

    The Barnes & Noble Book Club selection for September, Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, picks up more than 15 years after the events in her original classic The Handmaid’s Tale. Though the theocratic regime remains in the Republic of Gilead, signs abound that it’s the beginning of the end for the patriarchal power. Poised for revenge, Aunt Lydia is now old and dying, but she has no intention to leave this world without taking down some people with her in this captivating tale that fans won’t be able to put down. But what is a reader to do after finishing this incredible book and discussing it at your local B&N Book Club meeting on Wednesday, October 9th at 7 p.m.? We’ve rounded up 8 more reads to keep you busy until next month. Check out our readalike picks for The Testaments.

    The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
    After reading the sequel, you may want to revisit Atwood’s instant classic that started it all. The dystopian future novel focuses on Offred, an enslaved Handmaid to the Commander and his wife in the Republic of Gilead—which was once known as the United States—an oppressive monotheocracy in which women have no rights and are only as valuable as their reproductive systems are viable. Offred only has her memories of a time when she had her freedom, a job, a husband, a child, a life of her own. And now she’s not even permitted to read and is only allowed to leave the house once a day to go to the food market. It’s a reality that seems all at once surreal and prescient to readers who won’t soon forget The Handmaid’s Tale or its powerful sequel.

    Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
    Kirstin Raymonde is just 8 years old, acting in a production of King Lear in Toronto when the show’s star, Hollywood-famous Arthur Leander, dies on stage of a heart attack. On the very same night, a flu pandemic is spreading across the world, wiping out civilization in Emily St. John Mandel’s spellbinding National Book Award finalist that will appeal to fans of Atwood’s latest dystopian tale. Kirsten can’t find her parents, and she and her older brother must try to survive this bleak new reality. We pick back up with Kirsten 20 years later—she has joined up with a traveling Shakespeare troupe called the Traveling Symphony, determined to bring art to those that remain to remind the survivors that humanity can indeed still exist.

    1984, by George Orwell
    Much like Atwood’s The Testaments, George Orwell’s 1984, written 70 years ago, feels chillingly prophetic in today’s climate. A masterpiece of dystopian fiction, Orwell’s tale offers his profound take on the effects of government surveillance, oppression, and revisionist history. In the tale, Winston Smith is a government employee for the Ministry of Truth, altering historical records to reflect the storyline preferred by the Party, who punishes anyone for even thinking negatively about the government—after all, Big Brother is always watching. Thus Winston has been secretly writing his thoughts in a diary, and one day, when he sees a girl staring, he naturally assumes she’s onto him. But Julia is also a rebel, and soon the two attempt to have a relationship and form a bond that simply isn’t allowed in this society.

    Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
    Fans of alarmingly prophetic dystopias would also do well not to miss (or, if it’s been a few decades, to revisit) Aldous Huxley’s ruthless, timeless, terrifying vision of a world that seems, in the current climate, jarringly famillier. This classic is often contrasted with the more overtly dark dystopian novel 1984, but it also offers an interesting counterpoint to the world depicted in The Handmaid’s Tale (in it, reproduction is also managed by the government, but in this case, it has been completely divorced from humanity, and babies are genetically engineered and grown in jars.) Brave New World finds humanity completely controlled by the state—but this control is implemented not through fear and subjugation, but by keeping people so distracted by trivial entertainment, state-sanctioned tranquilizing drugs, and government-approved promiscuity that they barely notice or care about their lack of personal freedom.

    The Power, by Naomi Alderman
    Have you ever heard a woman say she always knows where men are on any given street she’s walking on…like she has eyes in the back of her head? This novel imagines that men might be the ones who have something to fear, when teenage girls can torture and kill if they want to. Follow four perspectives of people whose lives are irrevocably altered when this power emerges, and remember the metaphor that Handmaid’s Tale and its sequel also drive home: that the power for evil is certainly within us, and if provoked, we can unleash it.

    The Memory Police, by Yoko Ogawa
    Ogawa’s dystopian tale about government surveillance and control is a perfect next read for fans of Atwood’s The Testaments. Objects, people, and even concepts are disappearing from the island—and it’s happening at a more rapid pace by the day. Most people on the island don’t even notice, but some are able to remember the things lost to the Memory Police—and these people live in fear of the draconian enforcement group. When a young novelist finds out that her editor has been targeted by the Memory Police, she hides him away in a secret room in her house, where they cling to her writing as a way to preserve the past and their relationship as a means for preserving their humanity. This novel was longlisted for the National Book Award for Translated Literature.

    Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
    In Ishiguro’s dystopian sci-fi novel, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy all grew up attending an exclusive private school together in the English countryside, where the students were sheltered from reality. The children always knew that they were somehow special, but their uniqueness was shrouded in mystery. Now, as adults, the threesome has come back together as 31-year-old Kathy is serving as a “carer” for Ruth and Tommy prior to becoming a “donor” herself in this haunting novel in which an oppressed underclass exists solely to act as organ banks to keep other people alive longer—and the underclass doesn’t understand their unavoidable destiny until it’s too late.

    Vox, by Christina Dalcher
    Vox‘s entire premise is based on the silencing of women, literally: allotted only 100 words per day and violently punished if they exceed it, women in this version of America have been robbed of their voices, their careers, and their dignity. But when one former cognitive linguist (aka, a scientist of words) is recruited by the higher echelon of the government to work on a cure for a Very Important Person’s brain injury impacting their speech, she decides that this (and her added allotment of words per day) is her opportunity to seek justice. Not just for her, but for her young daughter, who has grown up being silent, and her teenage son, whom she watches becoming more indoctrinated into this toxic system each day. A gripping read with twists and turns you won’t see coming!

    What books would you recommend for fans of The Testaments?

    The post 8 Books to Read if You Loved <i>The Testaments</i>, September’s B&N Book Club Selection appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 6:00 pm on 2019/08/14 Permalink
    Tags: americanah, brown girl in the ring, chandler baker, , christina dalcher, , lisa taddeo, , meg ellison, nalo hopkinson, , paradise, , , rory power, the book of the unnamed midwife, , three women, , , whisper network, wilder girls   

    10 Books to Read After the Season Finale of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 

    Once you’re recovered from the roller coaster of emotions that was the season three finale of The Handmaid’s Tale, the long wait until season 4 will start to set in. What will you do with your Wednesday nights without cheering on the fall of Gilead? Here are 10 books (plus a bonus) we recommend to get you through the post-season slump.

    Vox, by Christina Dalcher
    One of the creepiest parts of the new season was (mild spoiler alert!) the violent way Handmaids were silenced during the Waterford’s visit to D.C. Vox‘s entire premise is based on the silencing of women, literally: allotted only 100 words per day and violently punished if they exceed it, women in this version of America have been robbed of their voices, their careers, and their dignity. But when one former cognitive linguist (aka, a badass lady scientist of words) is recruited by the higher echelon of the government to work on a cure for a Very Important Person’s brain injury impacting their speech, she decides that this (and her added allotment of words per day) is her opportunity to seek justice. Not just for her, but for her young daughter, who has grown up being silent, and her teenage son, whom she watches becoming more indoctrinated into this toxic system each day. A gripping read with twists and turns I never saw coming!

    Red Clocks, by Leni Zumas
    Some of the most gorgeous and brutal writing I’ve ever read is in this book. Three POVs are followed throughout the story: a single teacher who is afraid that if she doesn’t get pregnant soon, she’ll miss her window to have a child—since in this patriarchy-defined version of America, adoption is only allowed for married couples; a teenage girl dealing with an unplanned pregnancy; and an outcast woman living beyond the confines of modern society who becomes the target of a smear campaign when rumors run wild that she performs abortions. As the ticking clock of when additional restrictions will be placed on women runs down, these stories intersect in powerful and unexpected ways, making the reader question what it means to be a woman, a mother, and a friend.

    Whisper Network, by Chandler Baker
    A novel with a ripped-from-the-headlines premise (and recent Reese Witherspoon bookclub pick!), Whisper Network is all over everyone’s TBR. Sloane, Ardie, Grace, and Rosalita are bound together by their work for Truviv, Inc. But they become even more united when the CEO dies and their boss, Ames, is set to ascend into the role. The problem? Ames is the subject of many, many whispers. When these women decide to bring those shadowy accusations into the light, none of their lives will ever be the same. Not a dystopia, but sometimes reality can be even eerier when we look at the relationships between men and women in corporate America, and the cost of speaking truth to power.

    Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    Another book where dystopia isn’t needed to show the impact of real toxic systems on real people, Americanah follows Ifemelu and Obinze, a couple in love, as they flee tyrannical Nigeria and attempt a life together in the West. But soon they are separated by forces beyond their control. Many years pass, and when they return to Nigeria— now democratized— they are different people, scarred by the ramifications of their individual lives in post 9/11 America and living undocumented in London. With searing, soaring prose and unforgettable characters, the harsh realities of being African, Black, Male, and Female are explored with great depth and authenticity.

    Paradise, by Toni Morrison
    One of the consistent critiques of The Handmaid’s Tale show is its handling of people of color, especially women. The great Toni Morrison is a necessary author to read to understand that for many PoC, this country is already a dystopia. Set in an all-black town in Oklahoma originally founded by former slaves, Paradise deals with events of harrowing violence, racism, abuse, and more. Like The Handmaid’s Tale, though, it focuses on the communities created by women, for women, in times of crisis, and with Morrison’s unforgettable, almost magical prose, its impact is indelible.

    Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo 
    A new non-fiction book thoroughly researched by author Lisa Taddeo (seriously, she talks in her introduction about how she moved to the towns as the women she was interviewing in order to become part of their communities!) Three Women has taken bookshelves by storm. It follows, as the title suggests, three individual women as they wrestle with sexual desire, trauma, the impact of sexism and misogyny, and more. Each of them feels trapped, in one way or another— usually because of the choices of men. The stories are true, but read like fiction: a woman who, as a teenager, had a Twilight-inspired affair with a married teacher; a restaurant owner who ‘swings’ with a dangerous partner; a mother unsatisfied with the lack of intimacy and sex with her husband. If nonfiction is usually a non-starter for you, consider giving this one a try.

    The Power, by Naomi Alderman
    Have you ever heard a woman say she always knows where men are on any given street she’s walking on…like she has eyes in the back of her head? Well, this book imagines that men might be the ones who have something to fear when teenage girls can torture and kill if they want to. Follow four perspectives of people whose lives are irrevocably altered when this power emerges, and remember the metaphor that Handmaid’s Tale also drives home: that the power for evil is certainly within us, and if provoked, we can unleash it.

    Wilder Girls, by Rory Power
    Speaking of teenage girls with incredible power, while this YA dystopian “retelling” of sorts is inspired by Lord of the Flies, I like this book for Handmaid’s Tale fans, too. A mysterious illness called The Tox has taken out many people in Heddy’s life, to the point where she and her still-uninfected friends can’t venture beyond the walls of their school for risk of coming into contact with it. That is, until someone close to her goes missing. Then, Heddy will unleash the wildness within her and venture into the dangerous beyond, no matter the cost. If whip-smart writing and a bit of body horror is your thing, check out Wilder Girls.

    Brown Girl in the Ring, by Nalo Hopkinson
    Imagine this: unlike in The Handmaid’s Tale, where Canada is a haven…in this novel, Toronto has fallen. Ruled with a tyrannical fist by a ruthless crime lord and rendered uninhabitable by the rest of society, the city is mostly disconnected from the outside world. People like the Black main character, Ti-Jeanne, are left to fend for themselves. Described by reviewers as “horror fantasy”, this book puts a woman of color at the center of a dangerous dystopia, giving her the ability to fight against the elements—including the father of her child, who has taken up with the very same crime lord who has destroyed the home she loves.

    The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, by Meg Ellison
    Since the Handmaids who aren’t pregnant on the show seem to function as midwives for the ones who are, a book about a midwife seemed appropriate to add to this list. Of course, it’s also a dystopia: the midwife is rendered irrelevant after a fever causes childbirth to become harmful to both mother and infant. But she’s still in danger, forced to travel under false names and disguised like a man…all with the hope of someday contributing to the rebirth of human society.

    The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood
    I had to plug the highly anticipated sequel to the original The Handmaid’s Tale book, didn’t I? Not available until September, unfortunately, but if you breeze through this list, it will be here before you know it! The Testaments takes place 15 years after Offred’s final appearance in the book, and as Atwood says herself: everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Gilead is in it.

    What books are going to help tide you over until The Handmaid’s Tale returns?

    The post 10 Books to Read After the Season Finale of <i>The Handmaid’s Tale</i> Season 3 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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