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Scheherazade’s Daughters

The Power of Storytelling in Ecofeminist Change

Series:

Barbara Bennett

Scheherazade, the storyteller of 1001 Arabian Nights, recounts stories literally to save her people, and in Scheherazade’s Daughters, Barbara Bennett explores how contemporary female authors attempt to save their own world by telling compelling stories that disseminate ideas of justice and equality for all living things, a philosophy called ecofeminism. Bennett examines how ecofeminism works in works by Margaret Atwood ( Surfacing, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Oryx & Crake), Barbara Kingsolver ( Animal Dreams, The Poisonwood Bible, and Prodigal Summer), and Ruth Ozeki ( My Year of Meats and All over Creation).
Bennett also analyzes ecofeminism in autobiography and memoir in Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge, Janisse Ray’s Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, and Sandra Steingraber’s Living Downstream. Lastly through Isabel Allende’s House of the Spirits, Ana Castillo’s So Far from God, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Bennett investigates how magical realism can spread the positive ideas of ecofeminism.
This groundbreaking book dissects the power of literature to convert minds and hearts in a direction that has the potential, like Scheherazade’s stories, to change our world for the better.

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1. The Power of Storytelling 1

Extract

aCHAPTER ONE The Power of Storytelling In the frame story of the classic tale The 1001 Nights, commonly called The Arabian Nights, the sultan Schahriar, embittered by the infidelity of his wife—whom he has killed as punishment—decides that no woman is capable of sexual faithfulness. To vent his rage, he decides to take a new wife each day, sleep with her one night, and have her killed the next morning by his grand-vizir. One by one, the young maidens in the kingdom are made victim to his bloody wrath until the people fear complete femicide. In desperation, Scheherazade, the beautiful daughter of the grand- vizir, begs her father to allow her to be the next bride of the sultan because she has a plan in mind to end the maniacal murders. No amount of her father’s pleading will dissuade Scheherazade from her decision; she asks only that her sister Dinarzade be allowed to sleep in the room with her on her wedding night. So it is arranged and Scheherazade and Schahriar are married. A few hours before daylight, when Scheherazade would be executed, Dinarzade awakens her sister and the sultan with a request to hear one of Scheherazade’s charming stories. She begins and soon has the sultan completely captivated by her tale. As morning approaches, she abruptly ends the story at a key moment in the action, saying how sorry she is to have to leave him wondering what happens in her story, especially knowing he will never...

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