Literature Program

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.


Talking Leaves & Hallwalls present

Hillary Jordan

When She Woke: Novel Reading & Book Signing

Hillary Jordan Hillary Jordan's first novel, Mudbound, won the Bellwether Prize sponsored by novelist Barbara Kingsolver and went on to critical and commercial success. When She Woke is quite different from Mudbound. In a work of speculative fiction on the order of Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale. Jordan reimagines The Scarlet Letter in a near future where convicted felons are released back into the population after being chromed a color to match their crime.

Hannah Payne's life has been devoted to church and family, but after her arrest, she awakens to a nightmare: she is lying on a table in a bare room, covered only by a paper gown, with cameras broadcasting her every move to millions at home, for whom observing new Chromes—criminals whose skin color has been genetically altered to match the class of their crime—is a new and sinister form of entertainment. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder. The victim, according to the State of Texas, was her unborn child, and Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she's shared a fierce and forbidden love.

When She Woke is a powerful fable about a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of a not-too-distant future—where the line between church and state has been eradicated and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated but chromed and released back into the population to survive as best they can. In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a path of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith.

This starred review from Booklist is representative of the advance praise for When She Woke:

"An overtly dystopian take on Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Jordan's second novel grabs readers from the moment Hannah Payne wakes up in the Chrome Ward, having been injected with a virus to turn her skin red. Jordan blends hot-button issues such as the separation of church and state, abortion, and criminal justice with an utterly engrossing story, driven by a heroine as layered and magnetic as Hester Prynne herself … Absolutely a must-read."

Hillary Jordan grew up in Dallas, Texas, and Muskogee, Oklahoma, and received her MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University. She lives in New York City. She worked for several years as an advertising copywriter before devoting herself to fiction writing full time.