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When She Woke
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Group Reads > When She Woke Discussion (Oct/Nov 2011)

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Taylor (seffietay) Where is everyone at with this book? Anyone in the process of reading it? Anyone done yet? (I am!)

What are your thoughts??

Rhiannon (hellomynameisbook) | 5 comments Hey Stephanie! My book is on the way! I can't wait to hear what everyone thinks - so far it's been getting great reviews.

Taylor (seffietay) Yay! I thought it was super and am looking forward to discussing it :)

Katie (hibi) | 31 comments I just got it in ebook format. I hate waiting. :) I only just started reading it, but I love the way it begins.

Katie (hibi) | 31 comments One, why do they always make these sorts of stories set in Texas?!? Two, "homosexuals to conversion therapy." I don't even know what to say about all of that except that, I am glad Texas isn't completely like that yet. And, I say completely because in many ways it actually is.

Taylor (seffietay) I liked that her big plan was to escape to Canada :)

Katie (hibi) | 31 comments Of course, lol my home has to be oppressive and you get to live in the place of liberty.

Who was you/y'alls favorite character? I loved Simone.

Taylor (seffietay) We wouldn't dye people red up here! Hahaha. And I really liked Simone too. I liked that her character was a bit of a mystery at first, and then turned out in a way that was unexpected.

Janel (janel10) | 19 comments I have a kindle so I first downloaded the sample and quickly read it. Now I've gotten the whole book. What a premise, turned red due to a sin. I can't wait to read more! I consider myself religious, but chroming someone due to a 'sin' is just awful!

I haven't gotten to the Canada part yet.

Katie (hibi) | 31 comments Haha Stephanie, I would like to think we wouldn't down here either...but...we might. I do worry for some of our states.

Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
Well, I've finished it. I really enjoyed it while I was reading it and couldn't put it down. Now that it's been a few days my opinion is starting to cool. I think it is more an effective political statement than it is a good novel.

Taylor (seffietay) The political statement of When She Woke definitely took the forefront, I think. As Erika pointed out in her review, Hannah was a little unbelievable as a character, especially when she made a complete about face in her personal beliefs (devoted church-goer to lesbian aggressor) - Not to say that can't be done; Oranges Aren't the Only Fruit had a similar raised by religion turned super lesbian character - but Hannah's thought process could have been laid out a bit better so the reader could see the changes happening, rather than just read about the changes that had happened... you know what I mean?

Katie (hibi) | 31 comments I can agree with that. I think I was actually so sucked into the political aspect that I completely disregarded characterization issues. This book went so well with the material I am reading for my Politics of Motherhood course.

Taylor (seffietay) While I was reading it I didn't even notice any kind of character flaws because, like you Katie, I was just completely absorbed and every page was so excellent from a political standpoint. It felt very much like Handmaid's Tale at times. I loved it. After letting it sit in my brain for a while I find myself questioning the development of the characters in general. Still loved it though.

Katie (hibi) | 31 comments :)I am glad you mentioned it remind you of Handmaid's Tale. I just re-read that for my class, and it does have SO much in common. Even more than common themes. I love them both.

Taylor (seffietay) I should re-read HT too, I loved it when I first read it and I'm sure re-reading it will make me love it more. There are only a few books I have actually read more than once - The Red Tent being one of them - because there is always so much *else* that could be read haha

Katie (hibi) | 31 comments Oh, yeah. I usually only re-read texts for school, even if I fell in love with them. :/ I haven't read The Red Tent. I own it though, and do plan to... when I graduate in a few weeks and actually have time...ah, time...I hardly know what that is anymore.

Taylor (seffietay) ...Time? What is time?

Red Tent is glorious.

Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
So given that we agree that the characterization is rather flat, but that the plot is thoroughly engaging, what about the politics? In many ways the future she postulates is not all that different from what we currently have. If Mississippi's recent "personhood" amendment had passed, that might well have resulted in the criminalization of abortion. I think those sorts of religious communities do indeed currently exist in the U.S. Is the "chroming" all that different from today's sexual predator lists?

Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
"Politics of Motherhood" sounds fascinating! What's on the reading list? Have you read Gabrielle Palmer's

The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts Are Bad for Business?

Katie (hibi) | 31 comments No we haven't Alexa. We read The Handmaid's Tale, The Patron Saint of Liars, The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood,Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. We also watched The Business of Being Born, Losing Isaiah, and The Kids are All right. As well as read several articles from other texts, such as Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty.

Taylor (seffietay) Alexa, I think that's why I liked the plot so much; it wasn't at all unbelievable. You are totally right, with the personhood amendment our reality wouldn't be that far of a departure from the book's - thank goodness that didn't pass, by the way!

I think what Jordan does with this book is shine a spotlight on the politics of abortion in a way that makes the debate more accessible to people that may not be currently involved with it. The way she makes the punishment for the crime of abortion so visible in her story (chroming) I think will make the persecution of real women today that much more obvious to those who either don't get it, or don't care. Those of us who are already very pro-choice and have followed the issue in current news may not be shocked or enlightened by what happens to Hannah, but for someone who is not familiar with the struggle for women to have control over their own body this book may make them more aware of what really is going on today. For that reason I think the book is great.

Alexa have you seen Hell House? It's a documentary about a church in the US that puts on a haunted house every Halloween, but instead of your standard ghosts and ghoulies they scare you with women who have had abortions, unwed teen mothers, homosexuals dying of AIDS and tell you that if you do/are these things you will go to hell. It's pretty intense/outrageous. You can watch the trailer here.

Katie (hibi) | 31 comments Oh, Stephanie!! When I was growing up I was pretty active in the Baptist church (my grandfather is a minister), as a church trip one Halloween we were taken to Hell House. It more or less pissed me off. I think I stopped attending church shortly after that. There was also a scene of suicide, in addition to all of the things you mentioned.

Taylor (seffietay) Katie that is so strange! Was it as creepy as they make it look in the movie? With the conversion room at the end?

Katie (hibi) | 31 comments Oh, yeah. All of that is real. It is pretty much exactly what it is portrayed to be. It is insane that they think it is appropriate to scare teens into Christianity. I think we had to have a permission slip signed to go, because it was so graphic.

Taylor (seffietay) Wow.

Janel (janel10) | 19 comments Oh my gosh Hell House sounds absolutely horrid. Scaring people into believing in a God isn't really God's way.
The book was also rather horrid also. I really though Hannah was believable until toward the end. . I think the author tried to put too much into the book. From right wing Christian to Lesbian was a bit too much. I thought the book did very well until then.
The ending was predictable also

Taylor (seffietay) I agree about the lesbian scene. While I liked it for what it was, it did seem like too drastic a change in character for Hannah.
What about the book made it 'horrid' for you? The subject matter in general or the writing?

Katie (hibi) | 31 comments Haha well super Christian to lesbian wasn't too unbelievable for me. I thought the book was good. I kept in mind the Target audience while reading. I think given the audience certain things benefit from being exaggerated. It was not Atwood good, in terms of how well she foreshadows political issues, but still good.

Taylor (seffietay) Hahaha, well it's obviously not *impossible* for super Christian women to become lesbians :) but the transition seemed pretty abrupt for Hannah.

Katie (hibi) | 31 comments Lol I suspended disbelief because I wanted the story to unfold that way, because I would have been all over Simone myself.

Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
Yet in the end I was kind of disappointed that she made it so much about the chroming. After all, the minister doesn't come out and say that abortion and questions of faith should be personal decisions, all he says is that chroming is inhumane. Is it? For a true crime, is that a reasonable way for a society to punish? (Assuming "Fist" type activities are prevented.) Are sexual predator watch lists acceptable?

message 33: by Taylor (last edited Nov 28, 2011 10:24PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Taylor (seffietay) Reverend Aiden Dale was really let off the hook for all his involvement in the situation, and it really bugged me that Hannah was prepared to take the fall for his indiscretions. She went to such lengths to protect him and his reputation, while allowing hers to be completely tarnished. While he didn't technically have anything to do with the abortion, which was the 'crime' she was chromed for, he was in part responsible for the pregnancy. Did he really deserve her protection? Why did he hide behind her rather than coming forward to admit his involvement?

As for sexual predator lists, I will have to think a bit more about how I feel about them. In one sense, is it fair for a person to be branded a predator and have that reputation follow them everywhere regardless of whether they've done their time and/or reformed? But on the flip side does the public deserve to know when someone has a history of sexual violence and is/could still be dangerous? Chroming is an interesting concept. The idea of letting criminals free and relying on the prejudice of the public to shame them into behaving seems like a unique way to look at punishment. I'm not sure it would be a system that was 100% reliable. But would it be better than the for-profit prison system we have currently?

Janel (janel10) | 19 comments The idea of chroming and for a society to go as far as they did is the horrid part to me. The 'christian' society they claimed to be, was judging everyone. Then to color them according to their crime. A person living there would have to walk the straight and narrow.

And yes for Aiden Dale to get off completely free from what he did bugged me. I kept waiting for Hannah to do something to punish him, but Hannah kept being the martyr here.

I guess in a way we do this to sexual predator,but I think we try to do it to protect people. As opposed the punishment side. I could be wrong here though.

Katie (hibi) | 31 comments I think that Hannah had to be the Martyr in order for the story to work. In order for the reader to see the full impact of this cruel punishment she had to be alone and abandoned. Aiden seemed to have suffered his own turmoil, which I don't know if I even believed, but it was something at least.

I also think that it says a lot about Hannah's character, that she was so loyal. Perhaps loyal to the point of fault, but still.

Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
Of course some of this is the framework of The Scarlet Letter from which she was working. There Hester gets all the blame but emerges the stronger because of it, while the minister is never revealed and dies from his guilt. (I thought Jordan "cheated" a bit by letting Dale survive his attack.)

Taylor (seffietay) I forgot about the relation to the Scarlet Letter, I should read that one too!

Janel (janel10) | 19 comments Yea, I haven't read that yet either (Scarlet Letter). I should read that too. LOL

Katie (hibi) | 31 comments Same here. Haha

message 40: by Rhiannon (last edited Dec 13, 2011 04:03PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rhiannon (hellomynameisbook) | 5 comments Hey ladies! I apologize for being so late in the game in my discussion of When She Woke! I have been up to my face in Christmastime (re: working retail) since I finished the book a few weeks ago, and my "Goodreadings" has suffered!

Here are some thoughts below. I left all the spoilers in, since I'm almost a month overdue, and all you chickies are likely done and have moved on with your lives!

I really liked this book. And I echo all of the sentiments mentioned by all of you intelligent (and prepared/punctual) ladies above. I agree that this was very much a "message" book, and that the narrative suffered because of this. It's no Handmaid's Tale. But, that I still enjoyed it enough to recommend or read it again.

Like some of you, I really had a hard time with the sex scene between Hannah and Simone. It was not the "lesbian-ness" of the scene, I assure you. It wasn't too difficult to stretch my imagination around a Christian-turned-lesbian plot twist. I had a much harder time with the timing of the scene in relation to the recently-experienced trauma of Hannah's [possible or intended?] rape. That was too much for me.

I can even understand Hannah gaining an "attraction" to Simone after their bathtub scene. But, as a reader, I was really disturbed by the drugging and the bathing and the ouch-ing... A sweet love scene could've eased me out of it. But, a full-on horny sex scene? I was not on board for that, and thought it felt rushed, awkward... wrong.

When I first started reading this book, I felt as though there was some cookie-cutter characterization going on... most of which in the scenes that were dead-on The Scarlet Letter tributes. However, as the story branched away from that [limiting] structure, I really thought that Jordan's cast of characters became really unique and rich in detail - especially some of the characters in the Christian Reform House [forgetting the names, here], like the wife of headmaster (creep!), the group of pro-choice rebels [especially Simone & Victor], and [fogging on the name again!] The Guy Who Was Selling Girls Into Slavery/Restoring His House. All excellent.

I agree with Alexa, too, that Hillary Jordan kind of "cheated" her Scarlet Letter tribute by having Dale survive.

Have any of you guys started The Scarlet Letter? There are tons of similarities in this book... I felt like some of Jordan's lines are almost directly quoted.

Taylor (seffietay) Scarlet letter is on my list of books to read now because of When She Woke. I'm looking forward to seeing all the similarities!

And Rhiannon that is a really good point about the sex scene which I forgot about; it directly followed her drugging and attempted rape. It's pretty unlikely that someone who just endured such a traumatic event would be so eager to have sex so quickly afterwards, let alone such agressive/horny sex. That was another aspect to the scene that left me feeling it was unbelievable and tacked on. The clarity Hannah felt in that moment that initiating sex with Simone was what she wanted was unrealistic. I feel that she would have been much more hesitant, upset, confused, etc. Hannah was certainly portrayed as a strong-willed woman throughout the book, and perhaps the sex scene was meant to drive home the point that Hannah was refusing to be victimized by what happened to her... but still... it didn't seem likely that she would recover so fast.

Katie (hibi) | 31 comments Yes! I am actually glad for the late response. Haha! I just recently watched the movie Boys Don't Cry, and the same sort of thing happens. One of the characters actually is brutally raped, and very shortly after she has some hot sex. I found it completely unbelievable.

I did not put the two situations together until I was reading what you said Rhiannon, and then it clicked. It was just more easily recognizable for me when I was actually seeing it all happen as opposed to reading it. Anyway, you are absolutely right. I almost wonder if Jordan realized herself that the placement was off, but did not know where else to throw it in. One of those ideas that you are adamant about keeping even if you cannot make it fit.... Also, if this is the case I wonder if maybe she was counting on it being less distinguishable because it is written and not visual.

All that said, the timing does seem completely off, though I am still happy it happened. Haha

Rhiannon (hellomynameisbook) | 5 comments Stephanie said:"I feel that she would have been much more hesitant, upset, confused, etc."

I agree here, Stephanie! I think there would've been a hesitancy, it would've been gentler, and more awkward... if Jordan had wanted it to be more realistic.

Katie said: "I almost wonder if Jordan realized herself that the placement was off, but did not know where else to throw it in. One of those ideas that you are adamant about keeping even if you cannot make it fit..."

I thought the same thing, Katie! Hannah seemed kind of intrigued when she found out Simone was gay, so the author sort of set that up. But, then it was like she said..."Where to put it, where to put it? When will they be together again? How about the rescue scene?" Nah, didn't work out as intended...

Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
Rhiannon, thanks so much for your detailed review; I really enjoyed the opportunity to go back and revisit what I loved and what I hated about the book. You are a very evocative writer!

I was actually pleasantly surprised by how I didn't see any attempt by Jordan to imitate Hawthorne. For me she simply took the bare bones of the structure and made no attempt to mimic his language, his irony or his vision. Of course so much of The Scarlet Letter concerns the relationship between Hester and Pearl, which is obviously completely missing here.

Jessica (jla525) | 2 comments I know I'm late but I couldn't resist weighing in on this book. An honest disclaimer, I loved it and that will probably color any discussion I would attempt to have.

I have to say that I felt so differently about the interactions between Hannah and Simone. I honestly thought it was one of the most poignant moments of the book. But I think I never looked at it as face-value sex. I think it served two purposes.

In the bathroom prior to the bath thing, Hannah realizes that she is weeping out of relief that she is alive and when she wakes in the morning she again recognizes her being for the first time as a Red. As a victim and a survivor I think initiating sex with Simone was really a confirmation of life (and not an uncommon one particularly for victims of rape.)

Secondly, I think it is the moment where she gains the strength to follow through with escaping to Canada and also gives the insight to know she can never be with Aidan again.

Let me also say that I thought the religious commentary in this book was as compelling as the political. It's such a beautiful indictment of modern day Evangelicals and Christianity but not an anti-God or atheist message.

LOL, Like I said, I really enjoyed this book.

Katie (hibi) | 31 comments That is an interesting take on the love-making scene between Simone and Hannah

Taylor (seffietay) Thanks for weighing in Jessica! It seems we all loved the book... not much of a debate going on here haha.

Definitely an interesting take on the sex scene. I recently finished Mists of Avalon and there was a similar situation where a female character was raped, then rescued by her lover, who she then eagerly had sex with. I can see how for some women it might be comforting to be able to choose who she will have pleasurable sex with after having to endure forced/unpleasurable sex... but I'm still not really sold on the idea. I suppose some women deal with assault differently and we shouldn't write off that this is a possible reaction for some women... but it sure wouldn't be my reaction.

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