National news outlets have been touting the rise in sales of George Orwell’s 1984. My Twitter and Facebook feeds have been sprinkled with comments about how it was time to reread the dystopian classic, particularly after “alternative facts” became a thing. People are following through with this desire to read 1984, according to the New York Times, who reported that orders had “[led] its publisher to have tens of thousands of new copies printed.”
Somehow, I missed George Orwell in high school, but my college fiction professor taught Orwell’s essays “A Hanging,” “Shooting an Elephant,” and “Politics and the English Language.” For the time period, I appreciated Orwell’s progressive views on colonialism and India, which lead me to read Animal Farm and 1984 three years ago. At first, when Orwell started creeping across my social media, I considered rereading 1984 some weekend, but after walking across campus from a solidarity march with Black and Muslim students, I questioned, why Orwell? Was he really the only voice who had addressed these topics, these issues that are currently be created by a largely white, straight, male administration? Orwell did not speak for the fellow students I had marched with.
Instead of Orwell, I’ve been thinking of stories that speak to the political world Americans find themselves in every morning. Reiterating and reliving my own perspective is helpful as a fight song or anthem, but since many of the executive orders coming down the pipeline have been aimed a minorities, listening to outside voices is necessary as an ally. Orwell is the Ivory-Tower approved choice, so I began thinking about who Orwell’s voice might not have included.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. Butler’s work has come up in conversation almost as much as Orwell’s novels. One of my favorite Women’s March signs was “Octavia Warned Us.” For her examination of climate issues, fascism, race, and gender, this novel hits all the harrowing headlines of today.
Bitch Planet by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Valentine De Landro. This comic explores a dystopia where women who don’t “stay in their place” as 1950s house wives are sent to a giant prison. In the wake of the “nevertheless, she persisted” trend, this comic seems more relevant each day, especially as the characters represent a variety of voices, body types, and sexual orientations.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Explanation needed? Much of Margaret Atwood’s work could make a list like this one, but I’ve been thinking a lot about Handmaid’s due to the way fanatical religion has been braided with politics this past election.
Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias. This near-future novel explores immigration issues when a biometric tattoo is used to identify those in American on visas and recent citizens. While not a wall, a biometric tattoo seems like another insidious way to separate humanity. As Vourvoulias is an activist and journalist, she brings a credibility to the ideas of immigration and “the other” as presented in the novel.