What I’m reading

I was recently asked to contribute a post to Meanjin blog Spike, where authors write about what we are reading. It’s worth checking out the series. For my part, it’s all about the PhD at the moment (four months and counting). Here’s an excerpt from the post.

I’ve heard people say that doing a PhD can permanently kill your interest in the topic of your study. Not for me. I had the good fortune to pick a topic where there’s never a dull moment: overseas commercial surrogacy. Six months after I started my PhD, two surrogacy scandals broke in Thailand; one involving abandoned twin Baby Gammy, the other a Japanese businessman alleged to have fathered 19 children by Thai surrogates. This was followed by news of another twin born through surrogacy abandoned by his Australian parents in India. More recently, there was the arrest in Cambodia of an Australian woman accused of falsifying documents in the service of her surrogacy brokerage business.

Like I say, never a dull moment.

My PhD in PIC_the handmaids taleCreative Writing comprises a creative work—a novel about surrogacy—and an academic component, which includes discussion of other novels about surrogacy. Again, I feel lucky, as my topic has introduced me to some terrific reads.

I started with Margaret Atwood’s canonical 1986 dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale, though re-reading Atwood’s book in a world in which wealthy women pay poor women to carry babies for them and the US President surrounds himself with religious fundamentalists who seek to curb women’s reproductive choices makes the novel seem not so much dystopian as disturbingly prophetic.

Read the rest of the post here.



About Angela Savage

Angela Savage is a Melbourne writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. She won the 2004 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript, and the 2011 Scarlet Stiletto Award short story award. Angela holds a PhD in Creative Writing and currently works as Director of Writers Victoria.
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8 Responses to What I’m reading

  1. I know what you mean, Angela, about the Ph.D. topic. Yours is absolutely fascinating, and I”m happy for you that you’ve found such good reads that are relevant. And I couldn’t think of a better start than the Atwood.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Enjoyed your article, Angela. You make some interesting points about surrogacy and dystopian and crime novels. I’m wondering whether you’ve read or considered Elizabeth Jolley’s The sugar mother? It’s a long long time since I read it, but it’s a more contemporary literary novel, and more about the sorts of issues that Jolley wrote about – misfits and moral complexities/ambiguities. I need to read it again.


  3. kathy d. says:

    What a topic! This must really be fascinating as you’re still reading about it. I can’t wait to read your novel, as I’m sure it will be chock full of issues.
    I know this is a very complicated topic and has emotional, economic inequality, racial, societal and cultural issues attached. It is usually poor women who are surrogates for women with money whether from their own or other countries.
    I enjoyed Kishwar Desai’s book Origins of Love. She does see surrogates as exploited and also being deprived of civil liberties and that it’s a money-making business for the clinic owners.
    But one important point she raises is that 500,000 thousand Indian children go missing every year — and they should be adopted and have families and that people shouldn’t create more children but adopt them. I understand her plea.
    I can’t read Handmaid’s Tail; it’s too close to reality at this point. White male politicians deciding to defund Planned Parenthood, to force women’s clinics to close, to even now war on contraception. The House of Representatives so-called health care bill allows states’ insurance companies to not cover emergency, maternity and baby care. So women can’t get birth control or abortions nor can they be covered by insurance companies for pregnancy and childbirth. The proverbial rock and hard place is here already for women with low incomes..
    A male author in the New York Times a few years ago said teenage girls should not have abortions, but they deserve their situations and should remain pregnant and then give their babies to nice white middle-class, childless couples. No feeling at all about the teenagers who have to go through pregnancy and childbirth, which women should choose to do; it’s not exactly a breeze.
    I think it’s great when relatives give freely of themselves and can be a surrogate for a family
    member but without being paid, just doing it out of altruism. (I nearly offered that to
    a relative 20 years ago, then we realized the complexities.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comments, Kathy. My novel is chock full of issues, as you rightly guessed, although I am trying hard to make it about story and character first, ideas and issues second. As a writer friend noted recently, if your characters come to life, the ideas will naturally follow.
      I also enjoyed Origins of Love, and Meera Syal’s novel, The House of Hidden Mothers is also a very good read on this topic. And I know how you feel about The Handmaid’s Tale being so close to reality. Mind you, I’d really like to see the new series.


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