Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler and
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Any SF/F fan worth their salt should have any of Octavia Butler’s novels on their bookshelf. If they don’t have all, then they should at least have Parable of the Sower. Published in 1993, it follows the story of Lauren Olamina who lives in a possible future America if we don’t correct ourselves right now. I’m being serious. When I finished reading this novel, I was but a young 19 year old and did the math at how old I would be if Lauren’s world were true. It was then I realized that Lauren could be my daughter and started to seriously think about type of future I wanted to leave for my child. At 19, to fully grasp how the decisions you make affect other’s futures, just from a novel? That’s heavy and that’s what Parable of the Sower does. The novel is fast paced, gripping but also delivers a very potent message.
I know Margaret Atwood does not consider herself a SF/F writer, but a number of her books sure do fall into the genre. Her 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, is a SF/F classic, warning us of the dangers of religious zealotry. Again, I was very young when I first read this (I was 12!) but have read it a number of times as I’ve grown and experienced womanhood and each time the novel held completely different meanings. I’ve always associated with Offred, but due to personal issues and age, I finally sympathized with Serena Joy, and cried. Cried for how both women are oppressed and punished reproductively. A novel that can evoke such feelings on a person’s 6th or 7th read is definitely a SF/F classic that everyone should read.
-K. Imani Tennyson