cover image Native Tongue

Native Tongue

Suzette Haden Elgin. Feminist Press, $17.95 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-936932-62-7

This reissue of Elgin’s 1984 classic, a call to arms about the power of language in an oppressive society, is a welcome reminder of the feminist legacies of science fiction. In the 22nd century, following the repeal of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, a new society has formed in which women must be supervised by male citizens. Women’s only value now lies in their abilities to breed and to translate the many languages used in the intergalactic economy. Nazareth Adiness, the most talented linguist of her family, has spent her life translating and supervising children’s language education. At last she is allowed to move to the Barren House, where women past childbearing years go to die. Upon her arrival, Nazareth learns that the women have been using Nazareth’s own ideas to build a women’s language called Láadan that will lay the foundations of a revolution. Elgin (1936–2015) held a doctorate in linguistics and published a Láadan grammar and dictionary alongside her novel and its sequels; the depth of her knowledge is evident, but never gets in the way of the story. She explores the power of speech, agency, and subversion in a work that is as gripping, troubling, and meaningful today as it has ever been. (July)