I’ve only read about 70 pages of Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, but already I want to place this in the hands of every teenager and parent that walks through my library’s doors.
April 3, 2015
I’ve now finished this novel and pretty much feel the same way as when I began reading 2 days ago. The novel is not without problems, but it’s certainly thought-provoking and if its intended readers, teens, can learn what “feminism” actually means, than I can forgive its transgressions.
Here’s the gist: Glory O’Brien drinks a mummified bat—you should probably know that A.S. King’s writing is a little batshit crazy (you see what I did there?) and it’s glorious—and now when she looks at people she sees snippets of their ancestors’ past and their descendants’ future. As she pieces the future bits together, it becomes clear that the US as we know it is headed towards a second Civil War. This war’s purpose? To defeat feminism once and for all.
The glimpses of the future are frightening enough, but coupled with the fact that she sees no future when she looks at her father, Glory doesn’t know what to make of her new power. All of this new knowledge just leads to more and more questions: Who is she? Does she have a role in this future? Is she going to follow in the footsteps of her suicidal mother? In an attempt to make sense of the future, Glory decides to write it down in a book—her contribution to a world that may not remember her. These future glimpses of the feminist/woman hating future are the best parts of the novel. Due to a loophole in a Fair Wages Act, it is now illegal for women to work. King offers great commentary on current politics and the way women are constantly treated as “less than.”
The problems arise when we come back to the novel’s present day. Glory lives across the street from a hippie commune where its residents are very free about having sex. Glory’s best childhood friend is one such resident having sex. Glory then falls into a terrible pattern of calling her a slut. Slut-shaming doesn’t fit in with the novel’s predominant feminist message and it’s hard to swallow. It’s possible to argue that Glory is an evolving character who will eventually come to terms with both genders having and enjoying sex. It’s also true that she prefers to distance herself from other labeled groups of people, so labeling girls as “sluts” may be her way of pushing herself further away. But for a character who is so passionate about feminism, the slut-shaming seems extraordinarily out of place.
Overall, the predominant message of the novel makes it well worth the read. I’ve already purchased a copy for my sister’s Christmas present. I like to get a head start on these types of things.by