A Womb of One’s Own: Contemporary Feminist Dystopia

Feminist dystopias are having a moment. I can’t think of any reasons why. Many of them have to do with fertility and reproduction. Again, not sure why that would be a thing people would have nervous feelings about that they want to express through speculative fiction. These books often intersect issues of fertility with apocalyptic environmental crises. I mean, where does that idea even come from?

And the trend shows no signs of slowing. Be on the lookout for future feminist dystopias like Women Talking by Miriam Toews (April, 2019) and The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh (January 2019).

Here are some current examples, linked to their Booklist reviews.

 

Bannerlessby Carrie Vaughn

Environmental catastrophe, a corrupt government, a mysterious death, and a flawed but earnest heroine, Bannerless (and the follow-up, The Wild Dead) is ideal for fans of genre crossovers.

 

Before She Sleepsby Bina Shah

In a near-future Middle East, a devastating epidemic leads an authoritarian government to grant women multiple husbands to ensure repopulation. A worthy successor to The Handmaid’s Tale, with a narrative that slowly reveals the details of a horrible and imaginative dystopia through multiple narrators.

 

The Completionistby Siobhan Adcock

There is an environmental crisis in New Chicago, and pregnancy is only possible through artificial means—for everyone except Fredericka. When her sister goes missing, she sends her Marine brother to find her. Like PD James’ Children of Men, with family secrets and all kinds of terrible speculation.

 

Future Home of the Living Godby Louise Erdrich

A pregnant Native American woman is on the run from an increasingly fascist and evangelical government trying to contain the reverse evolution threatening the future of humankind. A darkly funny cautionary tale, this one will be a surprise—a good surprise!—for Erdrich devotees.

 

The Powerby Naomi Alderman

Suddenly women are able to control electrical charges, weaponizing touch in a wildly entertaining novel and potent revenge fantasy that asks what happens when the balance of power shifts.

 

Red Clocksby Leni Zumas

In a world where abortion is a crime, four women’s lives intersect in a story that is richly realized, compulsively readable, and never didactic, instead inspiring of empathy and discussion. And the cover looks like a vagina!

 

Voxby Christina Dalcher

Women are punished with an electric shock if they speak more than 100 words per day. A scientist is forced to give up her work under the new government—until the president needs her help to treat his brother.

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