It's one of the most highly anticipated books of the year — and Margaret Atwood's The Testaments is about to be the biggest thing on everyone's reading list when it officially launches on Sept. 10.
It's the sequel to the dystopian masterpiece The Handmaid's Tale, which largely explores issues around women's reproductive rights and gender-based violence. Atwood herself pointed out that all of the inspiration for Gilead — the world in the novel — has come from "the world we've been living in."
As well as being a ground-breaking novel, The Handmaid's Tale was cast back into the limelight in 2017 by the Hulu TV adaptation. While there have been other adaptations of The Handmaid’s Tale, the Hulu series has been widely successful — one of the most-viewed launches of a show for Hulu ever — and largely because it hits close to home in today’s political climate where women's bodies are still so often not entirely their own.
Now, The Testaments picks up 15 years after Handmaid left off, expanding on what we already know about Gilead through the eyes of three women, according to Waterstones, as signs emerge that the regime is starting to rot from within.
Regardless of whether you grew up reading The Handmaid's Tale, were first introduced to it by the show, or have never heard of the Canadian author at all, Atwood’s words are motivating to us all. Here are four times Atwood’s words on equality and empowerment inspired us.
Don't let the bastards grind you down.
Although The Handmaid's Tale and The Testaments are Atwood’s most buzzworthy books right now, the author’s full bibliography is extensive. She has published over 80 works, including at least 17 novels, eight short fiction publications, eight children’s books, and numerous poems, among many others.
In The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood writes “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.” It's essentially a made-up Latin phrase that roughly translates to “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” Atwood herself told Time magazine that it was a joke in her Latin classes in school. Still, it has become somewhat of an inspring quote for feminists.
Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.
Atwood has long been regarded as a feminist writer, even though she has danced around saying that herself. Still, there’s no denying the significance of the heroines in her stories. She has explored women’s struggles in many of her novels and has expressed feminist messages in doing so.
We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.
As well as the novels of Gilead, much of Atwood's writing — including novels like The Edible Woman, Surfacing, Lady Oracle, and Bodily Harm — deals with female protagonists resisting oppression.
A word after a word after a word is power.
Atwood is also an advocate for environmental issues and several of her novels touch on that. Oryx & Crake, and its follow-up novels, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam, take place in a sort of post-apocalyptic world and explore the impact humans are having on the environment.
Atwood also highlighted at an event in London in 2018 that women will bear the disproportionate burden of hunger, war, and repression — all sparked by climate change.
"This isn't climate change — it's everything change," she said, at a conference at the British Library. "More extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, rising sea levels that will destroy arable land, and disruption of marine life will all result in less food."
"[Climate change] will also mean social unrest, which can lead to wars and civil wars and then brutal repressions and totalitarianisms," she added. "Women do badly in wars — worse than in peacetime."
Margaret Atwood in couture. That's it, that's the tweet pic.twitter.com/mkNFSKmJjV— Zing Tsjeng (@misszing) September 8, 2019