Banned Books Week Spotlight – The Handmaid’s Tale


The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Original publication date:1985

This week is banned books week in the United States.  All week I will be highlighting banned, challenged, and censored books I own and have read.

Publisher description:

In this multi-award-winning, bestselling novel, Margaret Atwood has created a stunning Orwellian vision of the near future. This is the story of Offred, one of the unfortunate “Handmaids” under the new social order who have only one purpose: to breed. In Gilead, where women are prohibited from holding jobs, reading, and forming friendships, Offred’s persistent memories of life in the “time before” and her will to survive are acts of rebellion. Provocative, startling, prophetic, and with Margaret Atwood’s devastating irony, wit, and acute perceptive powers in full force, The Handmaid’s Tale is at once a mordant satire and a dire warning.

Status: Challenged in the United States (citation: #37)

Reason for challenge in the U.S.: Parents complained about sexual and anti-religious content (citation).

My thoughts: I thought this was a brilliant book that achieved dystopian eeriness in a way not even 1984 managed.  You can see my full review here.

Your Turn: Have you read this or any other dystopian novels (1984, Fahrenheit 451, – both challenged as well, by the way- etc.)?  What is it about dystopian novels that seems to make them so prone to challege?  Do you object to sexual content in a book when it is making a social or political point?

Buy this book on Amazon.

Check out my Banned Books Week Spotlights all week, every day at 2 pm Central through Saturday, Octobter 4th.

Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa; The Grapes of Wrath

Rebecca of The Book Lady’s Blog is doing Banned Books Week Spotlights as well, every morning at 9 am.  Check her out as well!

The Perks of Being a WallflowerAnd Tango Makes ThreeCatch-22

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2011

19 comments to Banned Books Week Spotlight – The Handmaid’s Tale

  • Oh yeah, I really loved this one. I’ve read Fahrenheit 451 too but this one is much scarier.

    There was some sex but it was creepy weird sex.

  • I think that dystopian novels tend to take things about our own society and put them in the spotlight. This makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

  • Dystopian eerieness is right – I remember this book freaking me out!

  • I just lent this one to my mother-in-law only to find out she hates dystopian novels. I haven’t read it myself although I bought it not far back.

  • tracy

    I really like dystopian novels, even though they are dark. This was one of my favorites. I just reviewed Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins that I think you would like too. It is an excellent dystopian book.

  • amy

    I love this book. I picked it in a women’s lit class in college and fell in love with the book and margaret atwood.

  • Okay, you just had to make me use a dictionary today, didn’t you (dystopian)? Ha. But to answer your question (now that I can), I have a hard time reading them, which is strange considering that I’m normally a pretty pessimistic person. I did read “The Road” but didn’t much care for it. I’d like to try “The Handmaid’s Tale,” though, because I’ve enjoyed other Atwood novels.

  • I wonder if anyone has ever studied how many books have been banned because they include sex and how many have been banned because they include violence. I’m guessing the sex ones will be higher. Readers need to ask themselves how the sex advances the story and what the author’s inclusion of it says about society. There’s no reason to object if it makes you think and learn.

    kristen @

  • I don’t particularly enjoy reading books that are filled with graphic sexual content. I especially find sexual content that’s violent in nature to be so disturbing as to keep me from finishing certain books. For example – I had a difficult time finishing The Prince of Tides because of the rape scene (I did eventually finish it). I’m still not particularly glad I finished it, and it’s been nearly 20 years ago (ack! I’ve gotten old!). That said, I don’t think it should have been omitted. I think it was pertinent to the story. I just have a limited tolerance for certain imagery. Things like that tend to stay with me far longer than I think is normal. I certainly don’t think that because a story or part of a story bothers me in some way that it should be removed from shelves lest someone else be disturbed by it.

  • I love Atwood’s writing and this is one of my favorite books. Although the sexual content was a strange and a bit graphic, it was the basis of the plot. Sex=children. I definately feel that if it is necessary to the plot it needs to be added.

  • This is one of my favorite books and by FAR my favorite dystopian novel I have ever read. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  • The Handmaid’s Tale is such an awesome book. My other favorite dystopian is The Giver, by Lois Lowry, which has also shown up on the list of banned books.
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..The Sunday Salon =-.

  • Klewis

    OK, so if alot more books are banned for sex, like in this dystopian novel. Then why arent more romantic novels banned? I’m sure that alot of them have “weird and creepy sex.”

    • That’s a good question. The thing to remember is that ‘banning’ a book typically means removing it from schools or public libraries, and is typically done with books aimed towards or taught to children and teenagers. The Handmaid’s Tale is taught in many schools, whereas I can’t really think of any romance novels that are taught. Generally the book banners aren’t concerned with – or at least are less concerned with – what adults can buy at the bookstore.

  • […] Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa — The Grapes of Wrath — The Handmaid’s Tale […]

  • […] Devourer of Books takes on another of my favorite books, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. […]

  • […] of Books has also done daily spotlights.  Check these out: Kaffir Boy—The Grapes of Wrath—The Handmaid’s Tale—Native Son–In Cold Blood–To Kill a Mockingbird–Lord of the Flies. Visit her […]

  • […] The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood […]

  • […] Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa — The Grapes of Wrath — The Handmaid’s Tale — Native Son — In Cold […]