Another entry in my series of posts dedicated to the Tiptree Award, which is given to works of speculative fiction that explore themes of gender.  Funds for the Tiptree are raised through a variety of ways, one of which is the Bake Sale.

Bites

Alright, it’s the last minute and you need to throw something together for a bake sale or a picnic or a potluck.  Some possibilities that require no baking or chilling:

Bites ready to go out the door in 30 minutes or less:

Bourbon Balls. This depends on whether or not your gathering is alcohol-friendly, but made as described these are heavenly.  They’re also all the better for sitting out for a few days (or in the fridge), so feel free to make them days ahead of time (or weeks, and freeze them) and pull out as needed.

Turtles. Super-basic – make a base of a few pecans, squash a slightly warmed caramel on top (you can make your own or buy a bag of them), and cover with melted chocolate.  Pop in the fridge for a few minutes, and you’re good to go!

No-cook cookies*. This was a genre of item I had never heard about until I was asking my mother-in-law for ideas.  There is, in fact, some cooking involved, but it’s all stovetop. You can change around the add-ins to suit yourself and what you have in your pantry.  Jeff loves these.

*No Cook Cookies

– 2 cups sugar
– 4TB cocoa
– 1/2 cup milk
– 1/2 stick butter

Boil one minute.

Stir in:

– 1 c peanut butter
– 1tsp vanilla
– 3 cups oats.  Can make up amount with coconut.

Drop by spoonful on waxed paper, cool for a few minutes.

Any other recipes you love to throw together at the last minute?

Books

Daughters of the North, by Sarah Hall (Tiptree winner, 2007)

This falls in the camp of the ‘bleak future dystopian’ novels, which of course means I was excited to read it.  🙂  It’s been compared to Children of Men, and The Handmaid’s Tale, because of its portrayal of a future England that has been slowly (or rapidly) losing environmental integrity of some kind or another, and because it deals with the way that women’s choices and fertility are affected in a society under stress.

In Daughters (originally published as The Carhullan Army), environmental disaster has resulted in most of Britain’s people living in very close quarters (to conserve resources).  Fertility is strictly limited; women are forced to be fitted with contraceptive coils, and police do random ‘spot checks’ of women in the population to make sure they’re compliant.  Women are also forced to prove compliance (ie, strip naked and display the trailing strings) when starting new jobs, applying for housing, etc.  The government is engaged in a ten-year reconstruction project which of course gets nothing done.

The frame for the story is that the narrative is a transcript from a prisoner in a penal colony, known only as Sister, which gives the entire story an air of hopelessness – you know it isn’t going to end well even before it begins.

Sister (whose real name we never learn) has been living in one of the crowded towns, with a husband who has increasingly become more and more distant and accepting of the indignities forced upon the populace by the authorities.  Sister plans her escape from the town to a place she’s only known through early news reports – an all-female homestead colony up in the hills north of her city.  The book is her story of life at this homestead, among the women.

Some of the questions the book addresses are: in what ways are the differences between men and women a result of biology, or of society?  What would a woman’s society look like (especially in a dystopian future)?  What might it take, personally and societally, to create individuals willing to consider using violence to achieve their goals?

Did I enjoy it?  Well, I’m always one for a good post-apocalyptic dystopia. This was a bit light on the actual apocalyptic events (widespread flooding due to environmental change, basically), being more concerned with the story and experiences of Sister.  It’s well-written, definitely, but I felt a distance from the narrator.  She undergoes some really awful experiences, but although her state during them is described, it lacks.. .empathy, perhaps?  Some of that can be due to the frame – one hardly expects her interrogators/interviewers to be empathetic to her story.  Or it could be that telling it as history blunts the emotional force.  Or it could be that I, as an American reader, am missing the subtleties of emotion that would be easily picked up on by a British reader.

There isn’t a single strong male in the entire book – one presumes that there are still decent men somewhere, not just bullies and lackeys, but they’re not seen here.  The women are more richly characterized; although almost all are strong (one presumes that the weak wouldn’t make it to Carhullan to begin with), there are a wide variety of temperaments and attitudes portrayed.

It didn’t quite scratch my dystopian itch; the frame limited the story to a very brief period of time, and a specific focus of attention.  I generally prefer more thorough world-building, and of course want to know what happened afterwards…  but that’s like life, I suppose.  It was definitely a thought-provoking read, and one that I think stands strongly among its other ‘family members’.

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