Madam Secretary: A book that is more than 500 pages

It took a while to read it but I finished Madeleine Albright’s memoir 20 years, to the day, after Madeleine K. Albright was sworn in as the first female Secretary of State–what a day to finish this book! A great read for anyone interested in foreign affairs or #WomenWhoLead!

“Women have to be active listeners and interrupters – but when you interrupt, you have to know what you are talking about.”

“I was taught to strive not because there were any guarantees of success but because the act of striving is in itself the only way to keep faith with life.”

What an accomplished life and this is a woman who was a two time refugee! She is my hero. It makes me want to name my daughter Madeleine.

 

Samantha, Daughter

14/20

 

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The Handmaid’s Tale: A New York Times bestseller

To Pete, For all that is meant to be. xo Doris” — that is the inscription inside the cover of this book. I glazed over it when I started reading but once I finished it I was plagued by the meaning hidden-in-plain-sight in that simple inscription. Is Pete her Commander, a loveless pairing? Her Luke, her love that she was torn away from by circumstance? Was he her Nick? Did he sacrifice their relationship so that she might have a real life?

The inscription was as powerful as a mini-book club. I think I bought this book at a library book sale at Alderney Landing, so Doris of the Greater Halifax Area (or Pete, who got rid of the thoughtfully selected book), what did you mean? I need to know.

This book is my New York Times bestseller, but it was so, so much more. To name a few literary awards, this vintage Margaret Atwood received:

And it’s been challenged on high school reading lists from past to present. I don’t blame concerned parents in a way. It is very violent, sexually explicit, and the suicidal tendencies cannot be a positive influence. Nevertheless, exposing young readers to that kind of mind-widening perspective and challenging high schoolers to really think about society and gender inequality is a pretty powerful message.

The Atlantic wrote about this book in March 2015. Yes, 2015, roughly three decades after this novel debuted. The article marveled at how even now we’re not quite ready for such a radical work. Radical is a good word for it. It was mind-blowing to consider that dystopian reality. I don’t even like dystopian fiction and I was fascinated by The Handmaid’s Tale. When they were casting the movie in the late eighties they struggled to secure an actress for the main character, or so I read in the aforementioned Atlantic article, because “many actresses feared the stigma of being associated with such an explicitly feminist work” (The Atlantic, 2015)

Now, how in the world will I find this 1990 movie with it’s inappropriately racy cover? (Promising me that Atwood’s powerful message will be watered down to the very thing that’s keeping The Handmaid’s Tale out of schools.)

Samantha, Daughter

13/20