The important message behind Margaret Atwood’s viral “unburnable” edition of The Handmaid’s Tale

Written by Amy Beecham

The 1985 novel has long been used as a symbol of protest for women’s and reproductive rights.

In a bold move to protest book bans in American schools, author Margaret Atwood has created a special edition fireproof copy of her controversial 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale.

According to the American Library Association, The Handmaid’s Tale is among books most often challenged or banned in US schools.

The novel has long been used as a symbol of protest for women’s and reproductive rights, continuing to rise in popularity following the Emmy award-winning TV adaptation starring Elisabeth Moss.

Recent rallies held against the overturning of Roe v Wade – the landmark ruling that legalised abortion nationwide in America – saw protestors don the signature red capes and white bonnets worn by Atwood’s characters in Gilead, the fictional republic in which the book is set.

The Handmaid robes have become a symbol of protest

Atwood has remained an outspoken feminist throughout her career, writing in her latest essay collection, Burning Questions: “Women who cannot make their own decisions about whether or not to have babies are enslaved because the state claims ownership of their bodies and the right to dictate the use to which their bodies must be put.”

Elisabeth Moss stars as Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale

Announcing the special edition, publisher Penguin Random House said: “Across the United States and around the world, books are being challenged, banned and even burned. So we created a special edition of a book that’s been challenged and banned for decades.

“Printed and bound using fireproof materials, this edition of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was made to be completely un-burnable. It is designed to protect this vital story and stand as a powerful symbol against censorship.”

Atwood herself appeared in a YouTube video that was immediately hailed as “legendary” which showed the 82-year-old holding a flamethrower, attempting to set the book alight.

The “unburnable” bookis set to be auctioned by Sotheby’s in New York on 7 June, with all proceeds supporting Pen America in its “work in support of free expression”

Currently, the bid price stands at $40,000. 

Images: Getty/Hulu

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