• Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
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Author Statement

Lesley Hauge 

When I started to write NOMANSLAND I wanted to write something that would convey some of the complexities of feminism to teenage girls living in the so-called “post-feminist” era. I wanted to subtly indicate how the repression of women is still very much embedded in our culture, right down to our own creation myths such as the Pandora myth and the Adam and Eve story, then rising up through the layers of history to surface in the form of modern-day consumer advertising, pornography and magazine spreads. The message always is this: that women and girls are primarily valuable because of their sexuality—other than that they are trouble. They deserve to be punished and need to be kept down. These messages have not gone away. Perhaps something worse has happened. The consumer juggernaut has co-opted the feminist idea of real empowerment, hard won by women everywhere, and peddles ‘girl power’ back to us via narcissistic, festishized caricatures of sexuality that sell sexiness as power, sexiness as the sole source of identity.

     But NOMANSLAND is a novel, and a novel is not a jeremiad. I wanted to find a way to present these ideas so that readers could see them afresh. I wanted to tempt them into exploring or re-examining their own ideas. I decided to make an off-center world. I created a dystopian society of women alone, strong women who have had to start anew in a precarious, ruined world, trying to create something that was truly theirs—free of oppressive religious myths and free of the consumer myths of ‘sexiness’. But over time these noble ideas have soured into a warped, joyless dogma. It is a life that has lost any sense of celebration or individuality or aesthetic pleasure. In short, it has lost any sense of fun—or love. And, like the societies gone before, it too is failing. It has descended into hypocrisy, and that other form of repression: women repressing other women. When the teenage girls of this austere NOMANSLAND world find a hidden house filled with the fascinating baubles and images of our consumer era, what are they to think? They know that the society that made the objects has failed, leaving behind a ravaged world … and yet there’s all this gorgeous, shiny stuff! What does it signify? Why do they feel the urge to own it, pore over it, adorn themselves with it and ultimately the urge to compete with each other in a beauty contest?

      My hope is that a reader might then also wonder: “If I could look back on my own society from this vantage point, what would I make of it? If I had never seen such things before, what on earth would I make of a pair of high-heeled shoes, or makeup, or a mirror? What is good about the world we have made? And what kinds of flaws might doom a society, including my own?”