25th Trillium Award

Freedom to Read Week: Erin Knight Reads and Releases The Handmaid's Tale

 
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In support of Freedom to Read Week, the Open Book team participated in the Book Crossing program. Each person selected a book from the Book and Periodical Council's list of challenged books, read it and released it where it will be found by another reader to enjoy and pass on.

Open Book: Ontario's Contributing Editor, Erin Knight, writes about her choice, The Handmaid's Tale (McClelland & Stewart, 1985) by Margaret Atwood.

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Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale was challenged in 2008 by a Toronto parent who objected to it being studied in a Grade 12 English Class. The parent was offended by the book's use of profane language and depictions of violence and sexual degradation.

As Atwood has famously said, "this is a book about what happens when certain casually held attitudes about women are taken to their logical conclusions." Sadly, The Handmaid's Tale is as relevant and necessary now as it has ever been. Wars are waged by destroying women's bodies. A gunman will shoot a teenage girl in the head because she wants to go to school. Wives and mothers are killed by their members of their own family. A woman walking alone is a target. As a safety mechanism, girls are taught to fear.

The Handmaid's Tale is a book that needs to be read. But afterwards, if you need something to restore your faith in humanity, try "releasing" it at your local YMCA. Two different women chased me down, worried I'd left my book behind. Another offered to hold it while I took my clumsy photo. Women extending their hands to another woman.

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Erin Knight is Contributing Editor for Open Book: Ontario. She is the author of two collections of poetry, Chaser (House of Anansi Press, 2012), and The Sweet Fuels (Goose Lane Editions, 2007). Her work has been shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award and the CBC Literary Awards. She lives in St. Catharines. @erinksknight is one of Twitter's quietest participants.

Check back throughout Freedom to Read Week for more BookCrossing posts from Open Book team.

Thanks to McClelland & Stewart for donating a copy of The Handmaid's Tale.

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