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Scheherazade’s Daughters

The Power of Storytelling in Ecofeminist Change


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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5. Memoir and Autobiography—“Grace Among Spiders” 115


aCHAPTER FIVE Memoir and Autobiography “Grace Among Spiders” The story of real people’s lives can be a potent way to show the damage we have done to the earth and its beings; if the imagination can’t reach some people, perhaps facts—facts imbedded in the tales of real people—will. And these facts aren’t often known by the population at large. Memoirs tend to include more statistics than pure fiction, and the writers are more clearly ecological daughters of Rachel Carson—often working as professionals in the fields of environmentalism, biology, or medicine, infusing us with startling numbers while they tell compelling true stories. Terry Tempest Williams, for one, reminds us of a time and an incident we are likely to forget—if, indeed, we ever knew—when our government carried on Operation Plumbbob, an intensive series of tests of atomic bombs conducted in the Utah/Nevada desert, tests that Williams believes most likely contributed to much higher levels of breast cancer in her own family. Another book about the possible origins of cancer, Sandra Steingraber’s Living Downstream: A Scientist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment, supports the frightening increases of breast cancer in women with statistics of her own, such as that women born in the United States between 1947 and 1958 have “almost three times the rates of breast cancer than their great-grandmothers did when they were the same age” (Steingraber 13). Finally, Janisse Ray, born the child of a poor junkyard owner in rural Georgia, tells the...

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