Thursday, December 28, 2017

12 Books of Christmas - Day 4 - Women's Work by Kari Aguila

Selected by Kirkus Reviews as one of the best Indie books of 2017!


"So when most of the men were dead, women saw their chance to take over?" Kate searches her son's eyes as he asks this. "Not take over," she says. "Fix things." It wasn't hard to justify what the women had done since the end of the Last War. They rebuilt their bombed-out neighborhoods as best they could and tried to establish peace and gender equality. But small groups of men roam the country, viciously indicating that the pendulum may have swung too far. When a bedraggled man shows up on Kate's doorstep one night, will she risk everything to help him? Does he deserve her help?

Women's Work is set in a dystopic world in the Pacific Northwest, where women struggle to survive through sustenance farming, clever engineering, and a deeply rooted sisterhood. Kate and her family are led through a journey from anger and fear to forgiveness and hope. It is a compelling story that challenges all of us to question traditional gender roles and to confront the fragility of love.

Kari Aguila

Would anything change if women ruled the world?

It wasn’t hard to justify what the women had done since the end of the Last War. They rebuilt their bombed-out neighborhoods as best they could and worked to established peace and equality. But small groups of men roam the country, viciously indicating that the pendulum may have swung too far. When a man shows up on Kate’s porch one night, gaunt and filthy, will she risk everything to save him? Does he deserve her help?

Women's Work is a dystopian look at feminism, where women struggle for survival through sustenance farming, clever engineering, and a deeply rooted sisterhood. This compelling story is highly relevant to modern gender issues, and reminds us of the dangers of separating any group of people from society. It’s a subtle yet suspenseful love story that will leave you breathless! 

Besides the pulse-quickening romance between Kate and Michael, readers and reviewers will be thrilled to discuss the underlying theme that it is easy to turn one group against another and make them into "the others", all the while espousing the ideas of fairness and compassion. Follow Kate and Michael on their morally complex journey in this thriller that is sure to spark conversations among families, friends and book clubs!

5 Stars!  "Women's Work is empowering and exhilarating. Aguila is a pioneer for crafting such an overdue and particularly necessary contribution for readers everywhere."
-The San Francisco Book Review

5 Stars!  Winner of the IndieReader Discovery Award “If the purpose of WOMEN'S WORK is to make a reader think, Aguila has achieved this."
- Indie Reader

“Aguila didn't even miss a beat. "Women's Work" is almost immediately engaging…”
- The Baton Rouge Advocate

"...Beautiful and terrifying all at once... Starts methodically and the tension builds with each page, with characters and a story that lingers. At times it's impossible to put the book down."
-The S-P Review

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Michael sits on the stool, his feet resting lightly on the floor. Kate steps behind him and shakes the sheet open. She wraps it around his neck, clipping it behind him to keep hair from falling on his clothes, and lifts the comb and scissors off the counter behind her. She pauses, studying the back of his head, trying to focus on the job at hand. His hair falls just above his shoulders, tangled and uneven, and she pauses before she begins.
“How short do you want it?” she asks.
“Not too short,” he replies. “Whatever you think is best. Anything would be an improvement.”
They both smile, and Michael gives a small nervous laugh that is cut short when Kate runs her right hand along the side of his head, her fingertips brushing the top of his ear as she combs through his damp hair with her fingers. She slowly lifts her hand to the top of his head and drags her fingers over his scalp from the top of his forehead all the way to the base of his neck.
Michael closes his eyes as Kate touches him, and the muscles in his neck begin to release. She can feel the warmth of his body in front of her, and has to struggle against the urge to lean into him.
Kate pulls the comb through his hair and pinches a section between two of her fingers as she makes the first snip. When she has worked her way around the right side of his head, she steps behind him and starts again at the back. She works slowly, trying to savor the closeness, this justifiable reason to be touching him. Long locks of soft brown waves drop down to the floor below.
She moves her body to his left side as she cuts, her arms raised to hold the tools. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Michael watching the deep rise and fall of her chest as she breathes. When her hip gently brushes against the side of his thigh, his eyes shut again. She stops fighting the feeling growing inside, and allows it to swell and rise.
Kate lowers the scissors and steps to the front of him. She can feel him watching her, and forces herself to look only at his hair. His legs are spread slightly apart as he sits on the stool, and she slides her body between his knees as she lifts the scissors to his head again. She can feel the inside of his knees slightly squeeze around her and, in the silence of the room, she hears the change in his breath, each inhale and exhale deeper now than before. With her this close, he has nowhere to look but her chest.
His eyes are at the perfect level to trace the curve of her breasts under her thin shirt. Embarrassed, he drops his chin to his chest. His hands lie heavy on top of his thighs, below the bottom of the sheet encircling him. Kate watches as his fingers lift ever so slightly in her direction, so close to touching her hips. The sheet draped around him has tented between his legs, and the sight of it forces her to pause. She closes her eyes for a few seconds in an effort to keep control.
“Keep your head up, please,” she whispers, and he complies, slowly raising his chin back to chest level.
A few minutes more, and the haircut is finished. She pulls her body out from between his legs, circles around to his back, and unclips the sheet, shaking the last of his locks to the floor. She folds the sheet loosely and sets in on the counter, then steps in front of him again.
She tilts her head from side to side as she inspects her work, and reaches up to run her fingers through the front of his hair, checking the length around the curve of his brow, over the tops of his ears. Finally, she drops her eyes to his and smiles.
He does not smile back, and his eyes burn so brightly, the blood rushes to her cheeks.


Would anything change if women ruled the world? 

Fifteen years after the Last War devastated families and infrastructure, women have taken over under the banner of peace and equality. Only too late do they realize it’s a slippery slope to oppression. 

In a devastated country, those in charge rule by fear, inequality, and oppression. Rhia, a strong and independent sea captain, just wants to keep her head down and do her job, unitl she finds herself trapped in a re-education facility designed to help people fit into the rules of the New Way Forward. The warden claims to be guiding those in her care, but Rhia quickly sees the cracks in the system. As she is faced with torture and brainwashing, those cracks become gaping holes that threaten to pull her down into the depths of despair. Can Rhia resist the slow subversion of re-education and become the reluctant hero the new world needs?

RUN Ragged is the thrilling second story by the award-winning author of Women’s Work. This brilliantly imagined novel is both a scathing satire and a profoundly poignant look at the price we are willing to pay for peace and what we are willing to ignore to keep our conscience clear.

1.  Women's Work - where did your idea come from?

A couple years ago, I was watching a late night interview show. The male host was talking to a female member of Congress and he asked her, "Why can't Congress get anything done these days." She said, "Well, if there were more women there, we'd get things done. Women are better at communication, less likely to jump into arguments, and more willing to compromise than men." Half the audience cheered and the male host, who is an intellegent, articulate man, was deeply offended. That got me thinking, would things really be better if women ruled the world? We've heard that phrase so many times and women always cheer about it, but is it true? If you attend an all-female high school or college, is it utopia? Does just being female make you better? That's not feminism. That's not equality. Undoubtedly, women need equal pay, equal representation, and equal rights in this world, but what would really happen if we took over? "Women's Work" is the story of women who do just that. There has been a terrible global war, many men have died, and women decide men have been in charge for long enough. They take over under the banner of peace and equality, planning to finally do things right and to finally attain harmony. However, ten years into it, women are beginning to realize it's not that simple and that when one group has power over the other, it's a slippery slope to oppression. 

2.  Do you think with today's political situation that Women's Work might actually happen? 

Unfortunately, in today's political climate, it's easier to believe in "The Handmaid's Tale". "Women's Work" would be more likely to come after the fallout of Handmaid's Tale. After years of systematic oppression, global warfare, and population-changing strife, "Women's Work" would be the pendulum swinging in the opposite direction. One of the great things about "Women's Work" is how the reader can relate to so many of the situations in the book. It's like an upside down mirror that flips your ideas of gender stereotypes on their head. Many readers have told me they would finish a scene and think, "That couldn't happen," but then switch the male characters to female in their heads and realize those things do happen all the time. Do I think "Women's Work" will really happen? It may be hard to believe, but this author of a dystopic, post-apocalyptic novel is actually an optimist. I have a lot of faith and hope in people under 20. I think they are going to save us all.   

3.  Book #2 is out, RUN Ragged, are you working on book #3?

In many ways, "RUN Ragged" is even better than "Women's Work". I think the writing is tighter and the story is propelled along at a breathtaking pace. It follows Rhia, a minor character from the first book, on her own journey. It raises a lot of questions for the reader about morality, how far you are willing to go to ignore problems if they don't directly impact you, and how you would react when those problems are finally facing you head-on. Both "Women's Work" and "RUN Ragged" are great for book clubs because readers are left just itching to talk about the stories. 

I haven't started writing Book 3 yet. I've been writing a new ongoing radio drama called "Broken, Alaska". People in Seattle can hear it on 101.1 FM on Sunday nights at 8:00pm, and everyone else can find it on iTunes under "brokenalaska". It's much different than "Women's Work" -- more like a mix of Northern Exposure, The Simpsons, and Twin Peaks -- and the dialog is all improvised. I write out a skeleton for each episode to direct the actors and move the story along to follow a larger arc for the whole season, but the actors take it from there. "Broken, Alaska" has been taking up a lot of time, but we just launched the radio show and the podcast on iTunes, so I'm really excited about it!  

4.  Who/what inspires you?

I had an odd upbringing, in that nobody really brought me up. I don't have much contact with any family, and I was on my own since I could legally do so. I always felt like I was in survival mode as a kid, so I honestly don't remember much about my childhood. I certainly didn't have any heros back then. Now that I'm an adult, I'm inspired by anyone who can live in the moment with clarity and optimism. I admire people who are so confident in and passionate about their abilities and skills that they speak clearly, are honest, and can challenge anyone to a debate about an issue. Now, I don't mean an argument. I don't really like people who argue, and I think you can tell when someone is only interested in shouting their points and beliefs at you without being open to your ideas. You can tell when you're speaking with someone and in their mind they are just trying to come up with the next thing to say as soon as you pause. But, when you find someone who looks you in the eye, listens to what you have to say, and tries to honestly hear you before they reply -- that is a person I want to hang out with. I'm inspired by people who are passionate about whatever it is that they do. If you are a writer, then LOVE writing. If you are a teacher, then LOVE teaching. If you are a scientist, I will be excited to listen to you geek out about your work if you are passionate about it. Passionate people inspire me. 

5.  Do you try to be more original or do you try to deliver what the readers want in writing? 

"Women's Work" and "RUN Ragged" will probably never be NYT bestsellers, and I'm ok with that. I'd rather be the weirdest person in the room than the most ordinary, and I don't expect my books to appeal to every person. But I didn't write these stories to please everyone. I wrote them because I couldn't find stories like these on the shelves and these are the sort of stories I wanted to hear about. I wasn't trying to be original. I was just trying to write what was in my heart and in my head. Some readers have told me they absolutely loved my books and that they can't stop thinking about them. Some readers have politely smiled and said, "Um. Yeah." Books are art. Books are like a painting. Every person who looks at the painting will see something different, and someone else's idea of beauty might not be the same as yours. That's ok. If you like "Women's Work" I'm happy to hear about it. If you hate it, I'm still happy to hear about it. 

About Kari Aguila  

In addition to writing award-winning dystopian fiction, Kari Aguila is a geologist, gardener, substitute teacher, singer and mom. She has numerous scientific publications, but took a strong bend into speculative fiction with her first novel, WOMEN'S WORK. Her second story, the stand-alone sequel, RUN RAGGED, asks what would change if women ruled the world. It is a timely, thought-provoking look at a country thrown out of balance that will leave you contemplating its themes and characters long after the last page. 
Aguila participates in book clubs all over the country via Skype to talk about her thrilling stories. She lives with her family in Seattle, Washington, and is currently working on her third book.

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