The Flame-Proof Edition of The Handmaid’s Tale and Censorship in US Schools


Margaret Atwood and Penguin Random House have released a single special-edition of her 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale – the question is, why has she made it flame-proof?

In short, Margaret Atwood feels the need to protect her famous novel while drawing attention to draw attention to the increasing book-banning occurring within school in the US.

The banning of books goes as far back as the 1600s, during time periods such as NSDAP Germany and it’s eventually making its way into today’s world. It’s been a consistent power move throughout history.  

But why, in an open-minded 21st Century, are books still being banned? Do books undermine the authority of those in power and can the status quo of a nation be upturned by the written word in books? And, if that is the case, is the banning of books more deeply rooted than we first imagined?  

Between July 2021 and June 2022 2,532 individual books were banned across multiple states in America. This list includes novels and books such as The Handmaid’s Tale (8 states), Perks of being a wallflower (7 states), Lawn Boy (11 states) and This book is Gay (8 states).  

In most cases, the reason for banning books comes from the belief that the book holds explicit material which is inappropriate for certain members of society, such as children, highlighting issues and values that some people would rather ignore, some arguing that it holds ‘difficult’ knowledge.  

The Handmaid’s Tale has been banned in schools across states such as Texas and Oregon because it features overly sexual tones, profanity, and is overall, ‘morally corrupt’. By banning the novel, the themes and messages Atwood conveys in her novel, such as the danger of the very censorship that is being increasingly enforced, is lost.

The resistance against the themes in Atwood’s book, such as political control of women’s bodies and reproduction, is ultimately banned alongside the novel.  

The banning of books doesn’t just stop within the literal paper. The banning of books prohibits the messages within these novels and takes away the learning rights for those who deign to read them, especially for young children. It’s a political power move; a form of self-preservation.

Books don’t hurt people. In fact they do the complete opposite: they open up a whole world of possibility and they facilitate change. What does hurt people is restricting the rights for readers and children to learn and develop their own thoughts and opinions on subject matters.

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