Margaret Atwood returns to Tuscaloosa, addresses community

Margaret Atwood returns to Tuscaloosa, addresses community

Before her rise to fame, Margaret Atwood served as a professor at The University of Alabama. Working as the visiting Master of Fine Arts chair, she fostered students pursuing a Master of fine arts degree in creative writing, helping them to enhance their craft. During her one year at the University in 1985, Atwood would also finish writing her novel that would still remain powerful in relevance 30 years after its publication, "The Handmaid’s Tale." Now, 32 years after publishing the novel, Atwood returned to Tuscaloosa to talk about her many writing endeavors, and the stories behind her most well known creations.

Atwood addressed a sold-out crowd in the Bama Theater on Tuesday where she spoke about finishing the novel on campus. She said the first person she showed it to was a professor on campus, but was apprehensive about publishing it. 

“I told her I was afraid I would get in trouble publishing the book,” Atwood told the audience. “She told me I would make a lot of money.”

Even after Atwood left the University, her work continued to have an impact on campus through the Blount Undergraduate Program. Jennifer Andress, an Alabama alumna who was also involved in the Blount Undergraduate Initiative, said it was well worth it.

“As a Blount alumni, she mentioned a lot of things that we talked about in the program, and it's cool how UA keeps us interested,” Andress said.

Jessica Lawrence, an Alabama alumna and AP Literature teacher in Arab, Alabama said she drove two and a half hours to hear Atwood speak, but said it was worth it. During her time at the University, Lawrence was involved in the Blount Undergraduate Initiative where she first read The Handmaid’s Tale. She said getting to see it come full circle and getting to hear from her was extremely exciting.

Preluding Atwoods’ visit to the University, a student-led reading circle read "The Handmaid’s Tale" and discussed the novel. They also watched the first episode of the novel’s Hulu television series, in which Atwood appears. Hulu released the show earlier this year, and Atwood confirmed the second season is already in production.

Atwood said the show carries as much weight as the novel with its view of a dystopian future. She said that, with the current political climate, the nervousness remained from when she first decided to publish the novel. 

“After Nov. 8, the cast and crew said they were now filming a different show,” Atwood said. 

She went on to say that she believes in the resilience of the American people, and hopes that people will go out and vote next time.

“Nobody can really predict the future, it’s not possible to anticipate what will happen,” Atwood said.

Faith Bonitz, a junior human development major who is also in the Blount Undergraduate Initiative, said she enjoyed learning more about Atwood’s connection to her work. 

“The fact that she wrote it so long ago and keeps up with its relevance shows how much she cares about the issues she talks about,” Bonitz said.”

After the event ended, Atwood stayed for nearly two hours to ensure those who wanted a book signed got the opportunity. 

“We were surprised at how many people came and how excited they were,” said John Estes, director of the undergraduate creative writing program.

The organizers of the event said their goal was for “Margaret to get to be Margaret,” and they believed they succeeded.

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