Beyond The Handmaid’s Tale: Feminist Dystopia & Utopia

We always love it when worthwhile, interesting books are adapted to film or TV, as it invariably means that a multitude of readers will be drawn to the source. As sales figures and waiting lists and libraries attest, this has been quite a year for Margaret Atwood’s landmark 1985 dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale, owing largely to the recent Hulu series, as well as the current political climate. If you’re waiting for a copy – or if you’ve already read it – why not tap into the diverse tradition of feminist science fiction that explores gender and society in provocative and visionary ways.

Hillary Jordan’s 2011 title When She Woke offers a dystopian version of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter in which a young Texas woman is punished for having an abortion by having her skin genetically died red, making her an outcast in a near future American theocratic society that is increasingly hostile to women. P.D. James’s The Children of Men envisions a society doomed by a plague of infertility, and other writers have used this device to more overtly explore reproductive rights, such as in Meg Ellison’s The Book of the Unnamed Midwifewhile it too much fertiligy that leads to misogynist repression in Sarah Hall’s Daughters of the North. Sheri Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country envisions a world where men and women are strictly segregated into proscribed roles, giving rise to a matriarchal movement that seeks to unseat the dominant male order. One of the most original recent feminist dystopias comes from Finland. In Johanna Sinisalo’s disarming and offbeat The Core of the Sun, our heroine Vanna seeks escape from a deeply regimented patriarchal and misogynistic “eusistocracy” by exploring drug culture focused on chili peppers.

Though less common today than those ubiquitous dystopias, another approach to highlighting societal issues lies through envisioning utopian alternatives to the current state of things, and there is a robust tradition of feminist utopia. Utopian tales such as Bengali writer Begama Rokeya’s 1905 Sultana’s Dream, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1915 Herland, and Doris Lessing’s 2007 The Cleft reveal much about patriarchy by portraying purely matriarchal societies. Provacative titles such as The Female Man by Joanna Russ or Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy offer multiple versions of how the sexes might relate, while Ursula LeGuin’s thought-provoking 1969 classic The Left Hand of Darkness delivers us to a truly gender-fluid world, where individuals are no longer defined by an accident of birth.

Find these and many more intriguing works of gender related speculative fiction on this list in our catalog.

     – Posted by David W.

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New Magazine Subscriptions: Part 2

In last month’s New Magazine Subscription: Part 1 we explored some fresh new titles hitting our magazine shelves, covering everything from dogs to military history. An eclectic mix of new titles keep coming! Here are several more subscriptions that have recently started at the Central Library and at branches.

Fantastic Man One of few men’s fashion magazines, Fantastic Man presents striking photography alongside interviews with influential men around the world. The Spring/Summer 2017 issue features film director Steve McQueen, photographer Collier Schorr, writer Édouard Louis, comedian Gad Elmaleh, actor Woody Harrelson, restauranteur Jeremy King, and photographer Tom Bianchi. If that’s not enough, you’ll find plenty of style inspiration (like these camping-inspired outfits).

Huck  I didn’t realize how much I was craving something a little different in my reading routine until I discovered Huck. With a mission to challenge and defy dominant narratives, Huck’s global journalists explore counterculture and subcultures left relatively untouched by other media. Take a look at the March/April 2017 issue for articles about an all-female London motorcycle collective, El Salvador graffiti, progressive porn, and the music of South Sudan’s youth. Also available at the Capitol Hill Branch. Continue reading

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Last November, there was a shooting in downtown Seattle. It was five feet in front of me. Afterward, I became more anxious than usual, with every waking moment and many sleeping ones filled with fear. I went to the doctor: PTSD. Aha.

The majority of my experience with mental health issues stem from childhood years of coping with adults and their untreated or unacknowledged issues. My father would always encourage empathy, emphasizing how difficult it could be to live with a mind that didn’t “mind” you, and that mantra has permeated my life. I found some understanding in books like An Unquiet Mind and I Hate You… Don’t Leave Me, and by attending lectures such as the In Our Own Voice presentations by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) (#IntoMentalHealth). I’ve also started following some great resources online like End the Stigma, The Mighty and the People of Color & Mental Illness Photo Project. And vocal celebrity mental health advocates like Carrie Fisher, Princes William and Harry, and these guys speak out and start conversations surrounding mental health and healing. Continue reading

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Summer Book Bingo Returns!

Polish your library card, clean your reading glasses, dust off your Kindle — whatever you need to do — because today Seattle Arts & Lectures and Seattle Public Library launch Summer Book Bingo, the 2017 edition! Pick up a bingo card at any of our Libraries, or print the pdf here.

Here’s a brief rundown of how it works:

  • Have a glorious summer of reading books that you enjoy while also discovering new genres and authors.
  • Write titles of books that fill challenges in each Bingo square.
  • Keep reading through Labor Day, and then if you have Bingo (five in a row down, across, diagonally) or a blackout (all 25 squares/challenges filled) you enter a drawing for fantastic bookish prizes.*

Continue reading

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Endangered Species Day

Mark your calendars for May 19 – Endangered Species Day. Since 2006, the third Friday in May has been a day to reflect on animal and plant species that are becoming extinct at an alarming rate.

Lun Lun at Zoo Atlanta

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) maintains The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, a comprehensive list of the conservation status of species. Despite some conservation successes, the IUCN’s assessment is that biodiversity is in decline. Of the 79,800 species on its list, over 23,000 are threatened with extinction. Continue reading

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Suggestions for a Seattle Book Crawl

Today’s guest post is from Ann Glusker, formerly a librarian with the Seattle Public Library and now with the National Network of Libraries of Medicine. Thanks to the Medical Library Association News for sharing this post; we trust with this handy guide that the medical librarians visiting our fair city later this month will have a wonderfully bookish time. 

Seattle is a book-lover’s paradise. It’s been in the top 3 of “Most Literate Cities” since the list started in 2003! Maybe there’s something about gray weather and coffee that lend themselves to reading. Given this, it’s not surprising that we have some fantastic bookstores. Feel like a stroll to see some of them? On the map below, you will find a Seattle Book Crawl—it should take about an hour (jf you skip 1A and 2A), but of course you may find yourself needing a little more time to spend in the stores themselves! Also, the basic route is pretty much all downhill, with a gentle uphill slope up First Avenue and back up Pike St. to the Convention Center after you leave Pike Place Market. And we can’t even count how many coffee shops you’ll pass!

1) Start off at the Convention Center! Continue reading

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Interview with an Artist: Ways of Working

Have you ever wondered why the end product of an artistic endeavor is called a work of art or an artwork and not art play? Has anyone asked, “When are you going to get a real job?” Are you working in a real job, yet wonder when you’ll get enough money, time and the space to do your real work?

The path of an artist is a complicated affair and not for the faint of heart. Sure, there can be something fanciful, playful even, about the work of creating a work of art, but play doesn’t get or keep you there for the long haul! Continue reading

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