“It’s no coincidence,” wrote Margaret Atwood, “that there are no public libraries in the dystopia I wrote about in my novel The Handmaid’s Tale.” In her letter to the New York Public Library, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale calls New Yorkers’ attention to the diminished funds for library maintenance.
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In the dystopic kingdom of Gilead, totalitarian regime has overthrown democracy and destroyed freedom of speech. Moreover, leading figures dictate complete control and reinforce erroneous values by categorizing individuals according to class and gender. In this society, women are considered as assets or “concubines” whose presence is solely for reproduction. Albeit dramatized, Atwood’s book is an ill-foreboding omen, warning us of what could happen to our society if our fundamental human rights are violated.
In her letter, Atwood says, “There are an infinite variety of tyrannies and dystopias, but they all share one trait: the ferocious opposition to free thought, open minds, and access to information. Where people are free to learn, to share, to explore, feel and dream, liberty grows.”
In a metropolitan city like New York, the library acts as an intermediary that brings together various cultures while providing accessible knowledge for all. However, the White House’s proposed plan for a budget cut earlier this year would take away half of the funding supplied to 123,000 libraries distributed across the country. Every year, the people who use these libraries amount up to 69% of the population.
Margaret Atwood’s letter-writing is part of the Invest in Libraries Initiative, a collaboration that unites the NYPL, the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Library. Overall, the costs for repair and extra opening hours will amount up to $1 billion in total. If you would like to support this cause and join the advocacy efforts that aim to urge Mayor de Blasio and the City Council to increase funding for public libraries, you can add your name to the petition here.
Featured image courtesy of The Huffington Post