Reading Journal 2023: Outlawed

Reading Journal 2023: Outlawed
Author: Anna North

Outlawed is a feminist alternative (neo) western. The setting is early America and barren women are being outcast from society, labeled witches and curses and a blight on society’s need to progress. The book, as is expected positions religion as the backdrop, marrying it to the politics of such positions of power and control. It also makes some strides, albeit, more nods than anything truly fleshed out, to see barrenness as broader than simply a “young woman who cannot conceive, pushing to locate the systemic issue across lines of gender and race. One of the options for women (and others) who have been given the mark of death is to become an Outlaw. This is what our main character Ada does, fleeing the accusations that follow not bearing a child. For her, she has heard rumors of a place and person(s) who are educated about what causes barrenness and feels driven to find his place and learn from these persons studying as she had been to be a midwife alongside her fairly liberal minded mother. This begins a partnership with the outlaw gang that becomes the basis for the unfolding story.

This book is advertised as progressive feminism in line with genre interests. Seemingly it has riled up readers with knowledge and awareness of the genre, who seem to be saying the book doesn’t push nearly far enough when it comes to tackling feminism from the full spectrum of gender and race related issues. It as even been accused of whitewashing and has even been called toxic, which seems a little drastic to me and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in context of the story. I don’t really have strong enough feelings for the book to come too hard to its defense, but if this book is being jettisoned by modern voices, it seems like very little could actually win in such a contest. I did enjoy what felt like a unique take on the western, and the story moves fluidly. The strongest parts were in the first quarter, losing some steam as it goes. But the hook feels decently present nonetheless the whole way through, contained as it is to the partnership and the mission that emerges from its formation,

Published by davetcourt

I am a 40 something Canadian with a passion for theology, film, reading writing and travel.

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