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Native Tongue

Suzette Haden Elgin

2 Reviews

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S.F. Masterworks, Classic science fiction

A feminist classic of science fiction comes to the Masterwork list - praised by Ursulua Le Guin, this is a cult novel due to be rediscovered.

Set in the twenty-second century after the repeal of the Nineteenth Amendment, the novel reveals a world where women are once again property, denied civil rights, and banned from public life. In this world, Earth's wealth relies on interplanetary commerce, for which the population depends on linguists, a small, clannish group of families whose women breed and become perfect translators of all the galaxies' languages. The linguists wield power, but live in isolated compounds, hated by the population, and in fear of class warfare. But a group of women is destined to challenge the power of men and linguists.

Nazareth, the most talented linguist of her family, is exhausted by her constant work translating for the government, supervising the children's language education in the Alien-in-Residence interface chambers, running the compound, and caring for the elderly men. She longs to retire to the Barren House, where women past childbearing age knit, chat, and wait to die. What Nazareth does not yet know is that a clandestine revolution is going on in the Barren Houses: there, word by word, women are creating a language of their own to free them of men's domination. Their secret must, above all, be kept until the language is ready for use. The women's language, Laadan, is only one of the brilliant creations found in this stunningly original novel, which combines a page-turning plot with challenging meditations on the tensions between freedom and control, individuals and communities, thought and action.

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Praise for Native Tongue

  • Suzette Haden Elgin's Native Tongue trilogy, a classic text of angry feminism, is also an exemplary experiment in speculative fiction, deftly and implacably pursuing both a scientific hypothesis and an ideological hypothesis through all their social, moral, and emotional implications - Ursula K. Le Guin

  • Less well known than the The Handmaid's Tale but just as apocalyptic in [its] vision . . . Suzette Haden Elgin's Native Tongue . . . records female tribulation in a world where . . . women have no public rights at all. Elgin's heroines do, however, have one set of weapons - words of their own - New York Times Book Review

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Suzette Haden Elgin

Suzette Haden Elgin (born Patricia Anne Wilkins; 1936-2015) was an American science fiction author. She founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association, and was considered an important figure in the field of science fiction constructed languages. Elgin was also a linguist; she published non-fiction, of which the best-known is the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense series.

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