“Voices” by Ursula K. Le Guin

book cover

Recommended to me by: adrian-turtle on dreamwidth.

This sequel to Gifts is much more comfortable to read. Rather than being about households polarized and divided by their powers, it is about a harshly occupied city where the people are known for “having peace in their bones.”

The city-dwellers are people of color, and the invaders are white. In the 17-year seige, many mixed-race children of rape have been born, including the protagonist, Memer. She seems to accept her mixed heritage matter-of-factly, while hating the invaders for their killing, destruction, and ongoing oppression.

It is reassuring to read about alternatives to retaliation and violence even with such apparently evil invaders. Sometimes annexation is a victory, or at least better than other available options.

A woman wants to take a risk and a man (caringly) tells her she shouldn’t. She takes the risk anyway – and nothing bad happens! I hadn’t realized how deeply I had internalized the moralistic unhappy ending that keeps women shut up in their houses, until I paused reading at the argument because I didn’t want to read about the woman being hurt for daring to be out in the world. I’m so glad that’s not how it went, this time.

Gender is relatively fluid in this book. Women and girls change their hairstyle and clothes, and easily pass as men or boys. Perhaps it is a skill learned out of necessity, or perhaps the invaders see so few women, in such limited circumstances, that they cannot recognize them in other environments.

And, it is lovely to see the main characters from Gifts again, grown into kind, powerful adults.

Available at Powell’s Books.

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