Bookmark Monday (II): DragonCon Freebies

With nearly a year gone by since my last Bookmark Monday post (way to stick new habits, self), I thought I would share the freebies I brought back from DragonCon.  Bookmarks are a great way to spread the word about yourself at a con, especially one for sci-fi & fantasy readers!

Bookmarks & Con Badge
Pretty Souvenirs!

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Native Tongue

Native TongueNative Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A dystopia where women are legally inferior to men & the formally educated are useful scapegoats that advance Earth’s territory as interpretors & bargainers. Native Tongue follows the various women of “The Lines” as they attempt to navigate a society that devalues them but still relies heavily on their fertility & their usefulness as housekeepers.

Originally published in the 80s, this book is definitely a sci-fi classic worth revisiting. Not only is the world-building captivating, many of the class & gender fears Haden Elgin outlines are still worryingly real. While the story is not as severe as something like The Handmaid’s Tale, there are plenty of unexpected dark & sad moments. For example, something as innocuous as a crush becomes a lesson in verbal humiliation & degradation. Definitely worth picking up if you come across it.

P.S.: This is totally associative, but the last scene of the book reminds me of the chorus to Matthew Good’s “Fated.

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: The Wind in the Door

A Wind in the Door (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet, #2)A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Meg Murry is trying not to be anxious. She’s home, her parents are working together again & her brother Charles Wallace has started school. But there is a grim air over everything. Charles Wallace isn’t in the best of health & he’s insisting that dragons are nearby. Mrs. Murry is working herself hard over an experiment in molecular biology & can’t spare much extra attention to her children. Everything seems to be a struggle to find the bright & the good. But “the dragon” is soon revealed to be a cherubim that has arrived to aid Meg, Charles Wallace, & their friend Calvin in another fight against agents of the Dark Thing. The three find themselves pitched against despair itself in a place just as foreign & awe-inspiring as their last quest.

While A Wind in the Door continues many of the same themes as Wrinkle, I found myself more captivated by the sequel. The main force the children tackle is once again apathy but its embodiment the Ecthroi are still recognizably frightening to this adult reader, especially in this modern time where feelings of isolation & powerlessness are common. Meg’s maturing here is interesting–she’s clearly learned from her trials in Wrinkle but still struggles with the demands her compassionate quest requires of her. Her struggle to connect & clearly empathize with the dry, unhappy Mr. Jenkins is compelling & a step in the right direction to keep her character from becoming overly sentimental & saintly. (This does mean though that her relationship with Calvin is simply reduced to immediate reciprocal love & comfort with little obstacle.) I’m curious to see if the practical twins become more clued in to the supernatural goings-on swirling around them.

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: A Wrinkle In Time

A Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Meg Murry is in a difficult phase. She feels constantly at odds with the people around her, her father has been missing for months, & her baby brother Charles Wallace seems to be privy to a secret plan with the eccentric Mrs. Whatsit, a newly arrived transient who’s been stealing the neighbor’s sheets. On top of that, another oddball named Calvin has inexplicably found friendship & comfort with the irrepressible Murrys. Meg, Charles Wallace, & Calvin are brought together by three fantastical beings in a quest to find Mr. Murry that will take them beyond the stars.

So, confession time, I knew absolutely nothing about this book, despite it being a touchstone of children’s literature. But once I opened the book, I soon found myself absorbed in Meg’s trials (both practical & supernatural) & struggles to understand the quicksilver changes she observes. I did vaguely know about L’Engle’s Christian concerns & was impressed by her outlining Meg’s struggle to embrace willing compassion. The drama of Wrinkle occurs just as much in the interior of her characters as well as outside them. And I now do wish I had read the series sooner.

The end of the story comes quickly & definitely left me wanting more. After seeing the struggle against the Black Thing & knowing there is much more to be done, I get that L’Engle has many more books to refine her overall goal. But the rescue, return, & reunion of the Murrys takes place so immediately, it’s hard to catch up & accept the end of the story. Onto the next book!

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Off the Shelf: The Gate To Women’s Country

The Gate to Women's CountryThe Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri S. Tepper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stavia has lived in Women’s Country for her entire life & as she sends her own son off to her town’s garrison to serve as a soldier for life, she is reminded of her own fateful choices that lead to this momentous day. As the story cuts backward & forward through time in her musings, readers will uncover the daily workings of Women’s Country, the choices humanity has made in order to survive post-nuclear destruction, & how classic Greek myths have come to serve as reminders for why women must always keep watch at the walls that separate them from the men.

This novel came to me as a wonderful gift from a friend of mine & I was fortunate enough to read it before Sheri Tepper died this year. First, Tepper’s interest in how women can preserve their autonomy & their reproductive rights are front & center to the novel’s story, but the nuances of how this matriarchal society has developed unwind patiently through the entire novel. Even with this focus on the female characters, the male dueteragonist Chernon invokes sympathy as well, with his struggle to understand the hierarchies & mores of the patriarchal warrior society he’s chosen to serve. Using the myths about the invasion of Troy & its downfall as a background help hint at where our characters are headed but also manage to disorient readers as well. (For example, the play The Trojan Women is put on every year at festival, but is played as a complete farce. Wrap your mind around that one.) As I kept reading, I found myself completely swept up in the story & was near tears myself when I arrived at the last page. I recommend Women’s Country for those who love dystopian fiction but are weary of the teenage love triangles that arise in current stories. Tepper’s book sees those lovelorn choices & explores them to a mature, and somewhat bitter, end.

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