Nothing says “controversial read” like a dystopian novel making social commentary on the United States of America — both of its government and people. The Handmaid’s Tale does just that. Written by Margaret Atwood, this novel takes place in “the near future.” Set in the former United States, this story tells of a new society where many things have changed, primarily the role of women in society. In the fascist Republic of Gilead, society emphasizes procreation due to a recent epidemic of infertility, some say due to a toxic waste spill. As a result, a new caste in society has developed, that of the handmaid.
The story follows protagonist Offred who has experienced the downfall of “freedom” in this new society and been forced into the role of a handmaid. Handmaids, who are chosen for their fertility, are assigned to high-profile couples who are unable to reproduce. The handmaid lives in the home of her assigned couple and is forced to procreate with the husband, providing a child for the couple. Offred’s struggle to change from her previous life to her role as handmaid is unveiled as the novel progresses. Will she be able to escape her place in society as kept woman, and if she does, what happens next?
This is a smart, complicated, and emotional page turner that I would recommend anyone read! The Handmaid’s tale falls at number 88 in the most frequently banned/challenged book list from 2000-2009.
Read a banned book today! Find the Top 100 list here.
Liz Cashman, Outreach and Development Coordinator