YA Lit, Roe v. Wade, and the Future of Girls’ Bodies

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been forty years since Roe v. Wade– forty years of continuous discussion, dissension, and dramatic debate on both sides of the issue. And the conversation is hardly over; earlier this year Wendy Davis made filibustering history and just last month the Women’s Health Protection Act was introduced into Congress. Given the prominence of women’s reproductive rights in the news today, it is no wonder that YA literature is also tackling this highly controversial topic.

when she woke hillary jordan coverThe books examined below can all trace their thematic heritage back to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but Hillary Jordan’s When She Woke (2012 Amelia Bloomer List) is the most obvious successor to this seminal work on women’s reproductive rights.  A reimagining of The Scarlet Letter, the book is set in a future theocratic American where abortion is illegal and women who are found guilty are charged with murder. Crimes are punished by a method called “chroming” wherein one’s skin is genetically altered to become a color that correlatesto the crime committed. The novel follows the story of Hannah Prynne who becomes pregnant after a steamy affair with a celebrity preacher. Her decision to abort the fetus and keep her lover’s identity secret results in an engaging, albeit disquieting, tale of the limitations of love, the effects of criminalizing abortion, and ultimately one woman’s quest for independence.

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