by Eleni McKnight
Genre: YA Dystopian
Release Date: November 22nd 2016
Summary from Goodreads:
Knowledge is a Dangerous Commodity
HOME – the last bastion of civilization in a corrupt and fallen world. Outside dwell the reanimated dead, cannibals, and scavengers; remnants of a once great race. Inside, the commune is ruled with an iron fist by Deacon, and administered without mercy by the Elders.
Everyone knows their place in HOME. Everyone is safe in HOME…as long as you follow the rules.
Handmaiden Suzannah Commons is content with training to be a wife and mother, the only occupation open to women in HOME. But her world is turned upside-down when she tastes the forbidden knowledge contained in outlawed books.
Suzannah discovers a new way of life is possible, but that knowledge comes at a high price. It could cost her life. Or the life of the boy she loves.
What was your inspiration for the novel?
I love this question. My biggest inspiration for this novel was very political, actually.
You might not agree with my feelings, but in 2012, when Obama was re-elected, I was actually excited because I personally am rated “Does not Qualify” by the insurance industry because I have a hole in my heart that causes ischemic strokes (which I’ve had two of, by the way). I’ve had to re-learn to speak, read, and write twice, and it was extremely expensive (and thank goodness I had insurance at that time, otherwise, I’d be bankrupt). I was so elated at Obama winning, because that meant I’d be able to afford medical insurance again with the pre-existing clause and I wouldn’t be threatened with lifetime caps with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care act he passed. I’ve known people who can’t get any more coverage from their health benefits because they hit their lifetime caps, and were then bankrupted and sent into poverty. This offends me greatly because, I don’t know anybody who plans on getting sick. I do believe that we are our brother’s keeper, too. I didn’t plan on having two strokes at age 26, and struggling to recover and be able to work and maintain a job to get my insurance. I was also suffering from some severe chronic conditions at the time, and being unable to get a job with benefits, they were untreated, and I was in a severe amount of pain without access to a doctor.
It was the day after Obama’s reelection that I started to see people protesting to “Secdee” from the Union illegally, including people within my home state! I’ve found most of them only read conservative news sources, when, at that time, I was trying to read everything I could get my hands on so I could have a full understanding of what facts were consistently reported. I freaked out, and being a writer, my imagination ran wild. I thought, if the South secedes from the Union a SECOND time, another war will ensue, and we’re all going to DIE!!!! (I’m a bit over dramatic sometimes, can you tell?). I’m also disturbed by the number of people I see trying to push their religion into law. Yeah, I’m a bleeding heart liberal like that. And I don’t see that as a bad thing. It was this that inspired the world of Home, the commune that had convinced a group of uneducated and unintentionally ignorant people that need religion to run their lives, not enhance it. I also remember the day I saw the “Secdee” protest photo, I read about three girls in different locations who had been drugs, raped, filmed, and humiliated over social media, which had lead to their suicides. I do think that religious policing runs parallel to control of women. And yes, I do count myself as a Christian.
Growing up in Tennessee, the heart of the “Bible Belt”, I grew up hearing about how women brought rape upon themselves, even from family members. Certain events in my life have shown me, when a rapist/would-be rapist wants to rape, there is nothing you can wear, no way to speak, no way to present yourself that’s going to change him into a non-rapist. Society has to change and turn around to stop rape and sexual assault intro blaming the rapist, not what the victim was wearing, what the victim had to drink/what drug was taken voluntarily, or the victim’s prior sexual behavior (and like a majority feminists, I believe that rape can happen TO any sex of person BY any sex of person, and that Patriarchy doesn’t just hurt women, it also hurts men). I realized, when coming up with Home’s world, that’s what it is: an incredibly dangerous Patriarchal society that hurts men just as heavily as it hurts women. Silas is almost forced to have sex outside of consent at one point to “man” him up. Rape is a very real thing, and it was a VERY real threat to me, even back in junior high, when talk about it happening to someone in our class in rumors.
I am a big believer too, that ignorance will never be as good as education. And the best way to educate yourself in through reading. This gave me the idea of Dr. Maars reading illegally to his family in private, and awakening the mind of young Suzannah, giving her ideas about equality and challenging her to realize that she has a brain equal in power to any man in the commune, making her dangerous to Deacon, and that she didn’t need other people to make her decisions for her. I admits, I’ve struggled with abusive relationships that were all about taking my control away from me. In effect, Suzannah is the baby feminist part of me that was just waking up at that time, and I’m proud to release her on the world!
About the Author
Eleni McKnight is a Murfreesboro, Tennessee native. She graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville with a degree in Theatre with an emphasis in Literature and a wild passion for creating clothes and doing make-up. She’s also an avid reader and loves music and theatre. She started writing at age eight when she had read all the Baby-Sitter’s Club books that were out and wanted something new to read. It’s never quite left her over the years
These days, you can usually find Eleni working backstage or costuming in local community theatres, reading a book, walking (that FitBit is addictive!), at a concert, drinking a craft beer with friends, knitting, embroidering, or taking a dance class.
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