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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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6. Magical Realism—“Defiant Magic" 151


aCHAPTER SIX Magical Realism “Defiant Magic” Perhaps as far as possible from the scientific enquiry evident in the memoirs included in the previous chapter, is magical realism, but it is, nonetheless, an effective way to disseminate ecofeminist ideals. Magical realism has become more and more difficult to define inclusively since, as Stephen M. Hart acknowledges, it has “crossed national, linguist, and genre boundaries,” (115), but a working definition viable for this study is literature that “portrays a world in which the everyday and supernatural coexist” (Hart 118). This use of the supernatural, of course, aligns easily with the spiritual side of ecofeminism, in which the acknowledgement of a collective soul—whether real or allegorical—has been very important to the movement. The idea of a goddess figure and the pagan origins of ecofeminism have been controversial at times, but spirituality is a significant aspect of ecofeminism. Believing that the earth and all its inhabitants have a spirit or a soul is monumental because it implies that the earth and everything on it is alive and therefore has a right to live. In the ecofeminist literature of the Americas, a mythology— Catholicism, Spiritualism, or other Christian belief systems—very often blends the normally accepted tenets of the religion with the native religions that were practiced by the populations long before missionaries arrived in the New World: “The Caribbean of the Black African slaves combined with the pre-Colombian natives and the Scheherazade’s Daughters 152 missionary-converted Catholics in Latin America” for example (Hart...

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