Monday, July 3, 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

May/June book! The Handmaid's Tale

Dear Our Shared Shelf,
Our next book – Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale – is a gripping read, but it won’t make you feel comfortable. It is set in a dystopian future where a society (which was once clearly the USA) is ruled by a fundamentalist religion that controls women’s bodies. Because fertility rates are low, certain women – who have proved they are fertile – are given to the Commanders of the ‘Republic of Gilead’ as ‘handmaids’ in order to bear children for them when their wives cannot. The novel purports to be the first-person account of a handmaid, Ofred, who describes her life under this totalitarian regime. Flashbacks to her past, when she took it for completely for granted that she could be a working mother and have an equal relationship with her husband, show how easy it was for women’s rights to be revoked once a period of social chaos arose. As tension builds, the reader desperately hopes that the underground resistance will come to Ofred’s aid and rescue her.
Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale over thirty years ago now, but it is a book that has never stopped fascinating readers because it articulates so vividly what it feels like for a woman to lose power over her own body. Like George Orwell's 1984 (a novel that Atwood was inspired by) its title alone summons up a whole set of ideas, even for those who haven't read it. As Atwood has said in an interview: 'It has become a sort of tag for those writing about shifts towards policies aimed at controlling women, and especially women's bodies and reproductive functions: "Like something out of The Handmaid's Tale".'
Well, here's our chance to read beyond the ‘tag’, and share our thoughts about how we think its dystopian vision relates to the world of 2017. Atwood has called it ‘speculative fiction’, but also says that all the practises described in the novel are ‘drawn from the historical record’ – i.e. are things that have actually taken place in the past. Could any of Atwood’s speculations take place again, or are some of them taking place already? Are the women in the book powerless in their oppression or could they be doing more to fight it? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Mar/Apr book! Women Who Run With the Wolves

Dear Our Shared Shelf,

When WOMEN WHO RUN WITH THE WOLVES was first published in 1993, it created a furore about the idea of the Wild Woman archetype and how women had lost our connection to our natural, instinctual selves. Jungian psychoanalyst, poet, and keeper of old stories Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book went to sell over 2 million copies, but today her fascinating book is rarely discussed. Estes’ ideas are both ancient and completely new. She points to storytelling, our ancient narratives, as a way for women to reconnect to the Wild Woman all women have within themselves, but have lost. 

As a young girl growing up in northern Michigan, Estes felt most at home in the woods where she often heard wolves howling. Instead of scaring her, the animals’ cries comforted her in a way she was later able to express in this book. Wolves and women share many qualities: playfulness, strength, curiosity, bravery, they are adaptive, and each care deeply for their young. But both wolves and women have suffered a similar fate of being hounded, harassed, exhausted, marginalized, accused of being devious and of little value. How does one reconnect with our deepest, most true selves when today’s world demands us to conform to ridiculous expectations? Estes retells ancient myths and fairy tales from around the world and in doing so shines a light on a path which leads us back to our natural state --- and help us restore the power we carry within us.

Emma x 

100,000 Members!

I didn't know what to expect when I started this Book Club. To have 100k members in less than a month is amazing and for this I am so grateful but even more amazing is the level at which I see these topics being engaged with and discussed and how generous people are being with their responses and insights into the material. This is what is meaningful to me. Then more recently to look on Instagram and literally see people from all over the world coming together to discuss these issues in groups, over Skype, in person, mothers and daughters, friends, selfies, pictures of cats and dogs curled up next to their owners alongside #MyLifeOnTheRoad, peoples' favourite reading snacks.... For this I cannot thank each of you enough because frankly it's just so heart warming. It's so much more than I had allowed myself to imagine it could be. Gloria emphasises in all of her work the need for solidarity and community; we are 'linked not ranked'. If this book club can be that, a link between people, then I've done a good thing and I'm very proud. I'll keep going out there and trying to make this the best it can be, harassing whoever I need to harass to get questions answered or figure out the next best thing to read. 

To celebrate 100k members I've started an Instagram account because I wanted to put all of the amazing images, quotes, pieces of artwork, selfies etc that people have been sending in one place. Take a look: and Facebook Page: 

Thank you again for investing so much and making this what it now is. Love to you all. 

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