Did you all know it's Banned Books Week? I've written a bunch of times about how much I love to read, and it's impossible for me to imagine my life without reading, and not being able to read the things I want to. I feel very lucky to be able to do both. Literacy Partners invited me to share one of my favorite banned books with them, and of course I said yes. It was hard to pick just one (my runner-up is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn), but I chose Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale. Below is my addition, and you can check out all the contributions here.
Julia M. Collins, Founder of girlslikeyouandme.com, 20-time champion on the quiz show Jeopardy! and Literacy Partners supporter
What do you do?
I run a website called girlslikeyouandme.com where women share their stories about what they do, why they like it, and how they’re connected to the girls they were growing up. I am also a 20-time Jeopardy! champion, and consequently a poster child for how rewarding reading can be. (Although I think that reading is its own reward.)
Why do you love this banned book?
The Handmaid’s Tale is a beautifully written, complex story, and a mystery: What is this society Offred lives in and how did it come to be? (Margaret Atwood has discussed the “how” here and here.) It explores two issues I feel really passionately about: 1) Women’s autonomy over their lives, their bodies, their careers, and their engagement with the world and 2) women telling their own stories, something I’ve now focused on professionally. Historically, women haven’t been allowed either of those things, and it’s impossible to read it without thinking about how women’s basic humanity is not universally accepted and is often under attack. Women who tell their own stories are often dismissed, marginalized, or outright not believed.
Why is literacy important to you?
“Reader” is one of the primary ways I define myself, and I cannot imagine my life without reading. To be reading is to be learning, to be thinking, to be engaging with the world, with ideas, with other people through shared experiences or differing points of view. Literacy is fundamental to accessing opportunity, and everyone should have that access.
One last thing: Literacy Partners is a really wonderful organization based in New York City. It offers adult literacy programs. "By focusing on parent education, Literacy Partners is closing the achievement gap among low-income and immigrant children." Check it out!