Monday, June 11, 2018

Dystopia and Resistance

Ghosts trail after us. They are our fears and the shape of our hates. We bring them into our lives and into our homes.
Some years our fears and hates are so strong our ghosts turn tangible and fracture our landscape.
Poltergeists and the spirits of drowned girls; malicious presences and portents; cat vampires and roaming bushrangers.
These ghosts haunt Sysdney ...

I’m working on an essay to present at WisCon. As part of my research, I took a deep breath and embarked on a re-read of The Handmaid’s Tale. I have avoided watching the television series, because there’s only so much dystopia I can handle right now and following the news takes up most of that. It was a hard read, but at least a book goes quicker than a TV series.
Something unrelated to my project struck me this time through the book: Everyone in it is white. While Atwood doesn’t describe all characters in sufficient detail to make that obvious, she refers to a homeland for the “Children of Ham,” which leads the reader to assume that separate settlements have been established for African Americans. She doesn’t mention any other people of color, though there are a few references to the treatment of Jews.
I am not bringing this up to criticize Atwood. I don’t recall thinking about race at all when I first read this book, even though I should have been more aware, especially since at the time I lived and worked in primarily African American neighborhoods in Washington, DC. Atwood was focused on religious extremists and their attacks on women. Given the popularity of the TV adaptation, it’s clear how much that still resonates. Continue reading