I just finished reading another good book. I really enjoyed this one. Even tho it was more than a little upsetting. Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed is a futuristic novel about an isolated island where the descendants of a small group of men have survived the war- ravaged, burning wastelands the rest of the world has become.
After decades of life on the island, the people have created a fairly stable community, even if they have to live without most of the things we take for granted. Not just electricity, and all the nice things we can have because of it, but even simple things like a decent piece of paper.
They’ve kept an elite group of 10 “wanderers” who, like the original 10 founders of the island, can leave the island at will. No one else is permitted to leave, at all, ever.
The wanderers search the rest of the world for useful items (and possible immigrants) and report back on the state of the world. It’s never good.
Culture on the island is based on the twisted religious ideology of the original 10 founders.
“When a daughter submits to her father’s will, when a wife submits to her husband, when a woman is a helper to a man, we are worshipping the ancestors and their vision.”
It’s pretty much a paradise for the male population. Not so much for the women, although most accept it, one way or another.
This book reminds me of The Handmaids Tale. The same bleak outlook for society, the same lack of freedom and autonomy, the same religious based repression of (especially) women.
In Gather the Daughters, the men get especially ‘lucky’. They get to sleep with their daughters. At least until a certain age. More and more “defective” babies are born (and most are killed soon after), but the solution is to bring in fresh blood in the form of acceptable immigrants instead of reconsidering the edicts of the founders.
Of course the women have some misgivings about the situation, but they keep silent. Previous experience with ‘shaming’ has taught them to protect themselves as well as they can. Young girls have no other experience to go by, so they accept these goings on as ‘normal’, at least until they start growing up when a few start questioning their situation.
When they enter puberty and become ‘women’, they are expected to marry and begin producing healthy offspring (but no more than 2- population must be controlled on an island of limited resources). Woe betide those who object in any way!
It’s a frustrating and sad story. I wanted to wring the necks of the ‘Fathers’ every time one of them opened their mouths. Yes, there were a couple of decent ones, but because they were in such a small minority they kept their ideas to themselves too.
I was so proud of Janey! She was so encouraging, she even starves herself in order to delay menstruation. She fights to the death to avoid being forced into becoming nothing but a breed cow. Leading some of the other girls into self exile on the beach, Janey tries to convince the other girls to fight along with her. They build shelters and hunt for clams for a few short days before a disastrous sickness hits the community and brings most of the girls home in an attempt to help their families.
I wanted to cry for all the girls (and women) on the island. For their lack of choices, for their lack of opportunity, for their lack of freedom, for their lack of information. Their lives have been stifled and cut short in almost every way.
It really angers me that so many people still consider a womans’ life to be worthless unless she is submitting to some man and popping out babies at every opportunity. It sickens me that so many people think women are put on earth only to ‘serve’ men. We are nothing but sex objects, to be ‘seen and not heard’, to be somehow ‘pure’ receptacles for a mans sperm whenever he feels like depositing it somewhere warm!
It depresses me to know that the stories in this book are not just fiction. Things like this are happening to women and girls right now. Not in some remote, make believe island at some point in the future, but HERE and NOW.
Thank god it’s no longer supported by the majority of the population here in America, if it was it would probably be made into a ‘law’ (since so many people believe we are a democracy instead of the Constitutional republic that we are in reality).
BUT IT IS still happening here and all over the world regardless. Of course, there are still places where the community DOES still support these barbarous customs.
All I can do is hope people will somehow come to see there is a better way than to use half of the human race as nothing but breed cows and unpaid labor. I do support various charities to help women and girls improve their lives and take advantage of all the real opportunities to LIVE their lives, to follow their dreams.
One example is Women for Women. They help support and train women who have suffered through war zones, rapes, families killed, beatings, homes and crops destroyed. Women for Women helps with emotional support and gives them training to help these women make a new start on their lives. I wish I could do more.
I can’t change the world (tho I try), but I think I can help at least a few individuals change their lives for the better.