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Native Tongueby Suzette Haden Elgin
Synopses & Reviews
Called "fascinating" by the New York Times upon its first publication in 1984, Native Tongue won wide critical praise and cult status, and has often been compared to the futurist fiction of Margaret Atwood. Set in the twenty-second century, the novel tells of a world where women are once again property, denied civil rights and banned from public life. Earth’s wealth depends on interplanetary commerce with alien races, and linguists -—a small, clannish group of families -—have become the ruling elite by controlling all interplanetary communication. Their women are used to breed perfect translators for all the galaxies’ languages.
Nazareth Chornyak, the most talented linguist of the family, is exhausted by her constant work translating for trade organizations, supervising the children’s language education, 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 comes to discover is that a slow revolution is going on in the Barren Houses: there, word by word, women are creating a language of their own to free them from men’s control.
"Native Tongue brings to life not only the possibility of a women’s language, but a rationale for one,"—Village Voice
"Elgin takes up more than linguistics, of course—everything from religion to sex…the story is absolutely compelling."—Women’s Review of Books
Suzette Haden Elgin is author of twelve science fiction novels and is widely know for her best-selling series The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense and for The Grandmother Principles. She is director of the Ozark Center for Language Studies and is professor emerita of linguistics at San Diego State University.
Susan Squier is Julia Brill professor of English and Women’s Studies at Pennsylvania State University.
A brilliant cult classic of literary science fiction--back in print.
First published in 1984, Native Tongue earned wide critical praise, and cult status as well-not only among science fiction fans but also among followers of women's literature and feminist theory and language buffs of all persuasions. Often compared to the futurist fiction of Margaret atwood and James Tiptree, Jr., Suzette Haden Elgin's gripping dystopian vision is enlivened and enriched by her wry wit, her fierce intellect, and her faith in the subversive power of language and of women's collective action. 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, L
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