6 Books Beyond ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ That Explore Loss of Reproductive Rights

Written by Brienne WalshJacqui PalumboCNN

keeping you informed, culture queue is an ongoing series of recommendations on timely books to read, movies to watch, and podcasts and music to listen to.
When Margaret Atwood sat down to write “The Handmaid’s Tale” in the early 1980s, she stopped working on it many times because she thought the plot seemed too “far-fetched” since wrote in The New York Times. A country born from the ruins of American society in which women are forced to give birth in a Christian patriarchy? Inconceivable.
Fast forward to June 24, 2022, and Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that affirmed a woman’s constitutional right to abortion was overturned by the United States Supreme Court. In his opinion, Judge Samuel Alito attributed the decision on the legality of abortions to the states, about half of which quickly banned them in almost all cases, some evoking language established in the religious belief that life begins at conception.
In response, Atwood recently aware a photo of her on Twitter holding a mug bearing the words “I told you so.”

In truth, she is not the only author whose work seems to have predicted this turn of events, or to have urgently examined other ways in which people are stripped of their reproductive freedoms. Speculation and science fiction writers, many of them women, have often explored these narrative themes. Whether you’re curious about where some creative minds think this path might lead or just need some literary catharsis, here are six such works to check out.

“The Future Home of the Living God” by Louise Erdrich (2017)

Set in a dystopian future, this book follows Cedar Hawk Songmaker, a 26-year-old Native American woman who becomes pregnant. The problem is that she lives in a society where there are signs that human evolution has begun to reverse (although the book is not explicit about what that means), and the US government Society (UPS), which brings together women and forces them to give birth in a controlled environment so that their babies can be monitored for signs of genetic abnormalities. Cedar tries to escape this fate by hiding with her biological family on the Ojibwe reservation in Minnesota, where she was born.

Through a convoluted narrative that nonetheless moves at the pace of a thriller, Erdrich suggests that ending women’s reproductive rights is a sign that humanity’s time on Earth has run its course, accelerated in part. because of the way people have destroyed the environment. When she published the novel in 2016, she told readers that she had started the book 14 years earlier and returned to it with a new sense of urgency. “I only have to look at pictures of white men in dark suits deciding crucial women’s health issues to know the time is right,” she wrote.

Future Home of the Living God

Future Home of the Living God Credit: Courtesy of Heather Drucker

“When She Woke Up” by Hillary Jordan (2011)

“When She Woke” focuses on a society where abortions are illegal in the US and the country is ruled by Christian fundamentalists from Texas. Instead of incarceration, the authorities force criminals to carry their punishment permanently by dyeing their bodies a color that denotes their crime. For the main character, who is convicted of murder after having an abortion, that means walking through life with red skin. A modern version of “The Scarlet Letter” (Jordan confirms the link in the book’s acknowledgments), the story examines the implications of prosecuting women for the crime of exercising their reproductive freedom.

when she woke up

when she woke up Credit: algonquian books

The Farm” by Joanne Ramos (2019)

In Ramos’ debut novel, the author combines themes of class, immigration and reproductive freedom in a story set in a luxury retreat in upstate New York, where surrogate mothers are pampered with countless comforts and He promises them wealth to give birth to a healthy child. . Guarded for nine months and cut off from their lives, the “hosts” include Jane, a Filipina immigrant who was desperate for a fresh start but soon realizes that she wants to leave. Ramos’ stark story of inequality, as pregnancy becomes the burden of the marginalized, is even more urgent as freedom of choice and access to health care become increasingly divided in the US. .

Shortly after “The Farm” was published, Alabama’s restrictive abortion law was passed, banning the procedure in almost all cases. bouquets saying The Guardian newspaper, “I can’t believe we’re here again.” She said that her novel was meant to make readers wonder if the events she had written about were already happening. “I thought of it as where we are today, but I only moved a few inches forward.”
The farm

The farm Credit: Courtesy of Random House

“Breaking Dawn” by Octavia E. Butler (1987)

Set after a nuclear apocalypse, Lilith Iyapo awakens hundreds of years after her time to find herself aboard a spaceship, saved from death with other survivors, and held in stasis by an alien race. Her captors want to repopulate the Earth, they must procreate with other species to survive as well, and they demand all procreation, no matter how the remaining humans feel about interbreeding. The first book in the “Lilith’s Brood” trilogy, Butler’s vision is a far-future vision of colonialism and the pressures one woman faces to revive her species.


Sunrise Credit: Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing

“Red Clocks” by Leni Zumas (2018)

Representing a world in which a Personhood Amendment has been added to the US Constitution, making not only abortion but also in vitro fertilization illegal, “Red Clocks” at times eerily reflects the reproduction policy in the US today. The novel follows the lives of five fictional women living in a small town in Oregon who are dealing with how their bodies are ruled, including Ro, a 42-year-old woman who wants to be a mother and is forced to try a procedure that leaves her dizzy and sick, and 15-year-old Mattie, who realizes that if she tries to abort her pregnancy, she could be jailed for years.

red clocks

red clocks Credit: Little, Brown and Company

“The Future of Another Timeline” by AnnaLee Newitz (2019)

Set in 2022, this novel is about an alternate US where abortion has been illegal for decades and humans discover time machines. One of the main characters is Tess, a secret agent for the Daughters of Harriet, a time-traveling feminist group on a mission to stop the Comstockers, a group of misogynistic crusaders who want to alter the past to further dispossess women. women of their rights. Tess wants to restore what has been lost, including abortion protections, and she does so by changing the course of history.

Newitz has spoken about the parallels between his novel’s alternate reality and the current state of the United States. In a recent op-ed for Slate, they wrote, “The alternate timeline I envisioned in my novel was already playing out within America’s official history of abortion access for all… All I had to do was to describe what was really happening around me.

“In some ways, the only difference between my novel and the reality for many Americans is that my activists have access to some really cool time machines.”

Annalee Newitz

Annalee Newitz Credit: Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle/Getty Images

Top image: Octavia E. Butler in 2004.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.