Monday, January 23, 2012

"When She Woke"

Hillary Jordan received her BA in English and Political Science from Wellesley College and spent fifteen years working as an advertising copywriter before starting to write fiction. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University.

Mudbound, her first novel, won the 2006 Bellwether Prize, founded by Barbara Kingsolver and awarded biennially to an unpublished debut novel that addresses issues of social justice, and a 2009 Alex Award from the American Library Association. Mudbound was also the 2008 NAIBA (New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Assoc.) Fiction Book of the Year and was longlisted for the 2009 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Paste Magazine named it one of the Top Ten Debut Novels of the Decade.

Jordan applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, When She Woke, and reported the following:
When She Woke takes place in a right-wing American dystopia of the near future. On page 69, my heroine, Hannah Payne, has just been released from the Chrome Ward of the Crawford State Prison after a 30-day imprisonment. Like her literary forebear, Hester Prynne, Hannah has been severely stigmatized for having broken society’s rules. Her crime was abortion, for which she was convicted of second-degree murder; her punishment, to spend 16 years as a Red, her skin genetically altered to broadcast her offense to the world. In this scene, she’s waiting for her father to pick her up and worrying that he won’t come. This is where her journey begins, the moment when she has her first inkling of how vulnerable she will be as a Red in the outside world. But she has no idea of the trials and terrors that await her...

From page 69:
She’d been waiting for perhaps twenty minutes when a yellow van pulled into the lot and headed toward the gate, stopping right in front of her. A sign painted on the door read: Crawford Taxi Service, We’ll Gitcha There. The passenger-side window rolled down, and the driver, a middle-aged man with a greasy gray ponytail, leaned over and said, “You need a taxi?”

She stood up. “Maybe.” In Crawford, she could get something to eat and find a netlet to call her father. “How far’s town?”

“Fifteen minutes, give or take.”

“What’s the fare?”

“Well, let’s see now,” said the driver. “I reckon three hundred ought to just about cover it. Tip included.”

“That’s outrageous!”

He shrugged. “Ain’t many cabs’ll even pick up a Chrome.”

“See what I’m talking ’bout, gal?” drawled the guard from behind her. “It’s a tough ole world out there for a Red.” He was standing in front of the booth now, grinning, and Hannah realized that he must have called the cab. He and his buddy the driver had no doubt played out this scenario many times, splitting their despicable proceeds after the fact.

“Well?” said the driver. “I ain’t got all day.”
Learn more about the author and her work at Hillary Jordan's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue