What if Roe vs. Wade were overturned, and abortion became illegal again? What if the government took it a step further and imprisoned anyone seeking an abortion (for any reason) on murder charges? What if they outlawed adoption for single people?
Leni Zuma’s Red Clocks, a modern-day reimagining of Margaret Atwood’s classic The Handmaid’s Tale, explores these questions through five interweaving stories of women living in this dystopian universe.
We here at Ginger & Champagne really enjoyed this novel and couldn’t wait to dive into some discussion questions. We hope you enjoyed reading along with us!
- What does the world in Red Clocks view as a family unit? What does our current society view it as? How do you personally define a family?Rebecca: I’m a firm believer in choosing your family as you would choose your friends, so my definition of family differs greatly from that of the novel and our current society’s. Red Clocks pretty clearly defines a family as two heterosexual, married people and their biological child or children. I think our society gives a little more flexibility to this, as homosexual couples are allowed to adopt children in some states, and stepparents and stepchildren are a fairly common phenomena, but still frowns upon single-parent families or non-nuclear families.
Megan: I agree-to an extent. Society is much more fluid than in the novel when it comes to what makes up a family, but I would argue that our administration is aligned entirely with Red Clocks. As the White House makes it clear that they believe in the two heterosexual parents, biological children idea of family, it’s easy to see how Zumas would make that connection. However, I believe the same as you. I believe that we create our families and make them in our vision rather than whatever anyone else is doing. If you want to adopt, need IVF, have children naturally-it’s your choice. As long as there’s love, there’s family.
- What did you think about the character of Yasmine, Mattie’s best friend? What role do you think she played in the novel?Rebecca: I think Yasmine’s story, brief as it may be, was one of the most powerful moments. Up until we find out she’s in jail for performing an abortion on herself, I thought for sure she had died in a botched attempt. I think Yasmine being imprisoned is so much more powerful than her being dead, especially with her being just a high school student.
Megan: I absolutely agree. I definitely thought she had died! But her imprisonment does speak volumes. It said, “We don’t care how old you are. You got yourself into this situation and you had better see it through. You don’t get to back out just because you’re 15” or however old she was at the time. It’s very telling that the society in the book was so eager to punish anyone just for wanting an abortion, no matter the circumstances.
I also thought it was very influential on Mattie’s life. Instead of taking heed her imprisonment, Mattie went ahead and had unprotected sex anyway despite knowing what could potentially happen. She knew her friend went to extreme lengths to end a pregnancy and almost died because of it, yet she wasn’t precautions in any way. Then when she found herself in that situation, she had no one to turn to in order to talk about it, not even Ash, and she wondered if Yasmine’s path would soon be her own.
- Which character did you identify with the most and why?Rebecca: I found myself most drawn to Mattie’s story. Perhaps it’s because she is the character to whom I am closest in age, or maybe I found her story the most entertaining and engaging. Either way, I felt connected to her in a way I wasn’t to the other characters. Although I’ve been fortunate enough to not be in the situation Mattie found herself in, I still felt her struggle as a lost and confused high school student trying to grapple with difficult life decisions.
Megan: I think, it all honesty, I found myself identifying with Susan the most. While you’re right, Mattie is the closest in age, sort of, I saw myself in Susan. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in something, someone else and lose sight of who you are. We put ourselves into these roles and wonder how to get ourselves out and put it off and put it off. It’s very honest. But I also see myself in Ro because no matter how much something hurts me, like Ro helping Mattie, I’m always going to help someone when they ask me. Also, I find it empowering that she actually goes ahead and throws things when she gets to that point and I merely envision doing so.
- Eivor the explorer’s story was so different from those of the other women. What role do you think her story had in the novel?Rebecca:I think Eivor’s story provided a good contrast to the other stories being told. Gin is on trial for providing abortions; Ro wants to adopt a child; Mattie is pregnant; and Susan is a mother. Each of these characters have some role in childbearing and motherhood, whereas Eivor existed as a purely human, nonsexual being.
Megan: I would agree. All of these women are faced with motherhood in some capacity, yet Eivor was there to remind us that motherhood doesn’t always have to be the path that women seek. You can still live a full, meaningful life, as Ro tells Susan, without finding not just family, but motherhood in general. Her story is there, I believe, in contrast to the other women in the story and I think that that’s really clever.
- Do you think the world of Red Clocks is realistic? Do you think we’ll ever see these kinds of laws in the United States?
Rebecca: Oh, absolutely. Each division of our government is almost exclusively ran by conservative men who have never and will never have the experience of being pregnant, yet still believe they know what’s best for women’s bodies. There is already a massive group of lawmakers who want to repeal Roe vs. Wade, which would eliminate a woman’s right to choose to be pregnant or not; what’s to stop them from taking their control a step further by enacting some of the laws in Red Clocks? Fortunately, younger generations are more pro-women than the current government, so I’m confident young people will undo any disastrous choices our government makes in the future.
Megan: Without a doubt. When we were discussing this via text, I mentioned that this feels almost more realistic than The Handmaid’s Tale because I could see our administration creating these very laws to prohibit anyone creating their own version of family in order to create “God’s view” of family. The laws were so real that I wondered if Zumas knew something that we didn’t. The timeliness of the entire novel was almost eerie, but I thought that that really added something to the story; an urgency. It’s books like this, as you said, that younger generations look to in order to create change. Red Clocks is an important story not just now, but for the foreseeable future in terms of women’s rights.
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas is on sale now.