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

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


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    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.

     
  • Tara Ariano 5:00 pm on 2019/07/17 Permalink
    Tags: cafe meetups, , hulu, , Ofmargaret, , , the testaments,   

    What Hints Does Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale Give Us About Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments? 


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    Last month, Barnes & Noble stores across the country hosted the first in a series of Cafe Meetups where fans of Hulu’s  The Handmaid’s Tale met to discuss the show and the Margaret Atwood novel upon which it is based. Many of the discussions focused on the differences and similarities between the show and the book—which got us thinking about what that might mean for Margaret Atwood’s forthcoming sequel, The Testaments, which will be published on September 10 in a Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition. (Our next Cafe Meetup is scheduled for July 25. Find a participating store near you.)

    Speculative fiction was a new genre for Margaret Atwood when she published The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985, but over the past three-and-a-half decades, the novel has become one of her most gripping and indelible. In recent years, it has also taken on new relevance, thanks both to the politics of our era and a television adaptation that has brought it to the forefront of pop culture.

    Though the novel was earlier adapted as a film in 1990 (with a screenplay by Harold Pinter and a cast including Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall, and the late Natasha Richardson), a standard movie runtime wasn’t sufficient to dramatize all the events and ideas it contains. In 2017, the TV series adaptation arrived on Hulu, with multiple Emmy-nominee Elisabeth Moss as its protagonist. Critical acclaim soon followed. But since, in our day, the content engines must be constantly stoked with new material lest the networks and platforms and streaming services stall out on the tracks, just covering the events of The Handmaid’s Tale wouldn’t do; the book didn’t supply enough events and ideas to fill multiple seasons of the show.

    For the first season, the plot of the series follows the novel’s with a great deal of fidelity: the U.S. government has been toppled in a theocratic coup, and while war continues between the Americans and Gilead, it’s happening far away from June (Moss). A fertile woman in a time when those are in short supply, she has been forced into the Gilead caste of Handmaid. She lives in the home of a Commander named Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife Serena (Yvonne Strahovski); once a month, she submits to The Ceremony, as procreative rape is euphemistically known. Since female literacy has been outlawed, she has little to do with the rest of her time but shop for food, take short walks around her neighborhood (both in the company of her walking partner, a fellow Handmaid), and worry about her loved ones, whose fates she doesn’t know: her daughter Hannah (Jordana Blake) and her husband Luke (O-T Fagbenle).

    After a time, Commander Waterford invites her for clandestine hangouts in his study, where they scandalously play Scrabble and leaf through antique fashion magazines. Once Waterford is fairly sure June won’t snitch, he brings her with him to Jezebel’s, a brothel, where she has a chance reunion with her college friend Moira (Samira Wiley), who washed out as a Handmaid and ended up as a sex worker, a life she finds far more palatable.

    Back home, Serena is pretty sure June isn’t getting pregnant—because the Commander is sterile—and arranges for June to copulate with the household’s driver, Nick (Max Minghella); the two end up enjoying each other’s company (to say they fall in love would be kind of a reach), and June does get pregnant. She is shocked to find out that her pious walking partner, Ofglen (Alexis Bledel), is involved with a resistance movement known as Mayday, which recruits her to run ops.

    One thing leads to another, and both the book and the show’s first season end with Nick—not only a driver, but also an Eye (an officer of Gilead’s secret intelligence service)—telling June to trust him while two other Eyes remove her from the Waterfords’ house. For a novel, it’s an ambiguous ending; for a TV series, it’s a cliffhanger.

    June/Offred (her Handmaid name, based on that of her head of household) is the book’s narrator, so while she can report to the reader some of the stories she hears from other characters, the novel formally echoes the claustrophobic restrictions of her new life. Where the first season of the TV series diverges from the book is largely through showing us perspectives of other characters that June doesn’t know about.

    Emily/Ofglen, for instance, was married to a woman; the rise of Gilead meant their marriage was invalidated, but her Canadian wife was permitted to flee with their son. In the meantime, Emily started a relationship with a Martha (a domestic worker in her Commander’s household). When they were discovered, her partner was executed on the spot, and Emily was forced to watch. Emily’s fertility makes her, in the official Gilead estimation, more valuable, so her punishment is a cliterodectomy.

    Serena was a conservative pundit whose theories provided some of the basis for the founding fathers of Gilead. She was passionately in love with her husband and now must live each day knowing she helped define the laws currently oppressing all Gilead women, herself included, and wonder if it was worth it to assist a husband who now has no interest in sex with her if it’s non-procreative.

    Nick was a disaffected young man who saw blue-collar jobs leaving his community and was too angry to get hired for one of the few that remained, making him a prime target for recruitment by a radical anti-government militia that actually ended up achieving its treasonous mission. And Luke and Moira? They both make it out, crossing the border into Canada to start their lives over as refugees. They eventually find each other, and start working together to try to get June out.

    The second and third seasons have continued what the first started, building out the world of Gilead, proceeding from the glimpses afforded the Junes of both the novel and the series.

    There are the Colonies—territories ravaged by environmental and nuclear disasters, where “Unwomen” (those who can’t or or aren’t permitted to occupy any of the few castes available to them) work without protection to clean up the sites, subsisting on contaminated water and food until radiation sickness kills them.

    There’s an episode set in an Econo-household (disappointingly, we see the show’s Econowives’ uniforms are just gray, like the Marthas’, and not striped as in the book) in which June does end up being spirited away from the Waterfords’ household and goes on the run.

    In a particularly shocking episode, June and the Waterfords travel to D.C., where the Washington Monument has been turned into an enormous crucifix, the Lincoln Memorial has been destroyed, and, under tight collars that cover their mouths and necks, Handmaids’ lips are closed with metal rings.

    We also learn more about the world around Gilead: the other sovereign nations whose diplomats are now working out whether and how to recognize a government brutally abrogating the civil rights of half its residents; and see what life is like in Canada for the former Americans who’ve escaped but are still processing their traumas.

    Some scenes created for the show echo current events of our day: June holes up in the former offices of the Boston Globe, where evidence remains of staffers’ brutal executions; the episode aired just two months before the shooting at Annapolis’s Capital Gazette last year. In another episode, Emily and her wife Sylvia (Clea DuVall), try to escape and are detained at the airport by a power-tripping ICE agent who tells them their legal immigration protections have disappeared, as occurred when President Trump’s “Muslim ban” executive order was first signed in 2017.

    Though June’s story in the novel ends with her being marched out of the Waterfords’ house, there does follow a section of “Historical Notes,” transcribed from an academic symposium on Gileadean Studies held in 2195, that hint at the future that awaits her. A Prof. James Darcy Pieixoto, an archivist at Cambridge, speaks about reassembling a text—which he and a colleague have dubbed “The Handmaid’s Tale”—from voice recordings made on ’80s-era audio cassettes; he speaks about the details Offred may have changed or elided for safety’s sake, and what she couldn’t know about Gilead due to her limited vantage point.

    This 13-page epilogue condenses a huge amount of data the show has mined for plot and worldbuilding: this season, we’ve seen June record her voice to send to Luke, perhaps creating the account the archivists will pore over in more than a hundred years’ time (the idea that this story is being told via whatever audio storage media is available would explain some of the more egregious needle drops this season. “Que Sera Sera”?).

    In the book, Prof. Pieixoto refers to Gilead’s “racist policies”; the show has been criticized for ignoring race, and given our current political moment, it’s impossible to imagine that the theocratic movement that created Gilead wouldn’t also be white supremacist—though we did get a moment in a recent episode in which Lydia (Ann Dowd) and two fellow Aunts are considering Handmaid assignments and indicate that one won’t be acceptable to a couple who’ve refused to take a “Handmaid of color.”

    Prof. Pieixoto singles the Aunts out for special note, calling them a “crack female control agency” and citing an architect of Gilead who believed “that the best and most cost-effective way to control women for reproductive and other purposes was through women themselves”—a notion that just played out on the show in an episode flashing back to Lydia’s origin story as a kindly elementary school teacher who, after a romantic rejection, turned her rage against a student’s single mother by exploiting newly restrictive laws to get the child sent to foster care for spurious reasons.

    The Handmaid’s Tale is about to end its third season, with the finale dropping on Hulu July 24. The imminent publication of Atwood’s sequel, The Testaments, will bring a whole new vein of material to be mined in potential future seasons. As a critic of the show, I have sometimes been frustrated by moments when characters seemed to be making decisions for the sake of the plot; the idea that June would, in the Season 2 finale, be on the verge of escaping Gilead with her baby and decide to give up her chance on the groundless hope that she might also someday free Hannah from her new family is preposterous. But even in moments like these, characters’ essential natures have remained true to their portrayal in Atwood’s novel. That, paired with the fact that Atwood has been a consulting producer throughout the run of the show thus far, would lead one to believe that, while The Testaments will vault us 15 years past the end of June’s story in The Handmaid’s Tale, she and her fellow Gileadean narrators will still be recognizable to those of us who’ve been watching her on Hulu for the past three seasons. It also seems likely that we shouldn’t be too optimistic about where Atwood will leave June this time.

    Do you have opinions to share about the similarities and differences between Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Margaret Atwood’s novel? Do you want to speculate about what readers might discover in The Testaments? On July 25, many Barnes & Noble stores are hosting Handmaid’s Tale Cafe Meetups where fans can come together to discuss the show, book, and more. Find a participating store near you.

    The post What Hints Does Hulu’s <i>The Handmaid’s Tale</i> Give Us About Margaret Atwood’s <i>The Testaments</i>? appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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