Originally published in 1984, this dystopian trilogy--"a pioneering feminist experiment"--is a testament to the power of language and women's collective action (Literary Hub).
In 2205, the 19th Amendment has long been repealed and women are only valued for their utility. The Earth's economy depends on an insular group of linguists who "breed" women to be perfect interstellar translators until they are sent to the Barren House to await death. But instead, these women are slowly creating a language of their own to make resistance possible. Ignorant to this brewing revolution, Nazareth, a brilliant linguist, and Michaela, a servant, both seek emancipation in their own ways. But their personal rebellions risk exposing the secret language, and threaten the possibility of freedom for all.
"This angry feminist text 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
"A welcome reminder of the feminist legacies of science fiction. . . . Explores the power of speech, agency, and subversion in a work that is as gripping, troubling, and meaningful today as it has ever been." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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About the Author
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 nonfiction, of which the best-known is the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense series.
"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." --Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The New York Times Book Review "A welcome reminder of the feminist legacies of science fiction. . . .Explores the power of speech, agency, and subversion in a work that is asgripping, troubling, and meaningful today as it has ever been." --Publishers Weekly (starred review) "This carefully crafted, fascinating dystopia is a call to action even decades later, and highlights the importance of language and its uses in politics of power." --Booklist (starred review) "Extremely relevant." --Bookforum "A necessary and exhilarating book." --4Columns
"Native Tongue brings to life not only the possibility of a women's language, but also the rationale for one. . . . [It is] a language that can bring to life concepts men have never needed, have never dreamed of--and thus change the world. Elgin never makes the mistake of easy utopiansim or over-optimism. Her women revel in patience." --Voice Literary Supplement
"Drastically and distinctly, Elgin has carried current fundamentalist views on women to their 'logical' conclusion. . . . Above all she understands that until women find the words and syntax for what they need to say, they will never say it, nor will the world hear it. . . . There isn't a phony or romantic moment here, and the story is absolutely compelling." --Women's Review of Books
"Elgin's novel will inspire those who believe that women's words can change the world." --Marleen S. Barr, author of Lost in Space: Probing Feminist Science Fiction and Beyond
"Published in 1984, Native Tongue got it right. In the power and precision of language, women can begin to change the world." --Maggie Shen King, author of An Excess Male
"A pioneering feminist experiment." --Literary Hub