Sunday 30 June 2019

#BlogTour The Red Word by Sarah Henstra

Today it is a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Red Word by Sarah Henstra. It's literary fiction with elements of mythology, sexual politics and rape. It's a brilliant read.
About the Author
Sarah Henstra is a writer and professor of English literature at Ryerson University, where she specialises in 20th Century British Fiction. She lives in Toronto, Ontario. The Red Word is her debut adult fiction novel.

Follow Sarah on Goodreads, Visit Buy The Red Word

About the book
The Red Word asks a bold question: what if women weren’t content to wait for the next assault to take action? What if they got tired of the his-word-against-hers stalemates? Set against the sex wars of the 1990s and the birth of third-wave feminism, the result is a smart, dark, take-no-prisoners look at the extremes to which ideology can go.

As her sophomore year begins, Karen enters into the back-to-school revelry—particularly at a fraternity called GBC. When she wakes up one morning on the lawn of Raghurst, a house of radical feminists, she gets a crash course in the state of feminist activism on campus.

GBC is notorious, she learns, nicknamed “Gang Bang Central” and a prominent contributor to a list of date rapists compiled by female students. Despite continuing to party there and dating one of the
brothers, Karen is equally seduced by the intellectual stimulation and indomitable spirit of the Raghurst women, who surprise her by wanting her as a housemate and recruiting her into the upper-level class of a charismatic feminist mythology scholar they all adore. As Karen finds herself caught between two increasingly polarized camps, ringleader housemate Dyann believes she has hit on the perfect way to expose and bring down the fraternity as a symbol of rape culture—but the war between the houses will exact a terrible price.

This is the kind of book you need a highlighter for. There were so many things Henstra got right, despite it being such a divisive and controversial premise. There are strips of paper throughout my book to note certain paragraphs and sentences.

Fair warning, I am probably going to talk about this one for a bit.

The story begins with Karen meeting the Raghurst women, after a long boozy night at the GBC fraternity (Gang Bang Central). Concerned that she has been assaulted she is drawn into their protective group. The group consists of strong young women with loud and proud views on themselves and their fellow women. They are especially driven by the need to change the rape culture, which is promoted and protected by our patriarchal society.

Fraternities and sororities aren't just an American thing, however they are predominantly found in the US. Becoming a member can ensure or give an extra lift up the career ladder. Plenty of companies and institutions scout Ivy League colleges/unis for the right candidates.

One of the problems referred to in this story is the way colleges function almost like independent countries within a bigger setting. They police their own crimes and offences, which also means they have the power not to discipline or punish, and of course an academic disciplinary action isn't a suitable punishment for a rape or gang-rape culture. The result is plenty of sexual predators being able to prey without fear of punishment and even more victims who suffer the consequence of this system. A system that prefers to protect the privileged, rich and influential.

In Karen the author gives us a character that represents perhaps the smaller percentage of women, the as yet to be assaulted, abused or harassed female. She perceives herself to be someone 'it' couldn't happen to, because she just isn't that kind of girl. Her mind-set isn't unusual, and often part of the victim shaming group. Those who shout about the short skirts, make-up, being in the wrong place and acting a certain way being to blame for any assault.

I enjoyed the frank and brusque dialogue between all of the characters. There is no talking around the bush. They think it, they say it. As a woman, I do believe how other women relate and react to this topic will be in direct correlation to age. The same applies to the way the plot and the characters evolve.

As young adults there is a burning fire inside and often a desire to rebel. To stand up and force change. As an older woman you have learnt that the fire can burn with less intensity and still effect change. The other side of the coin is the acceptance of the status quo and a lifetime of compromises.

It's literary fiction with elements of mythology, sexual politics and rape. It's a call to arms, and yet at the same time a call to think and regroup. Intellectual discourse and stimulation as a weapon and manipulative tool. It's so many things, but above all it is a brilliant read. Kudos to Henstra for this intellectually stimulating story.

Buy The Red Word at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Published by Tramp Press in trade paperback, 21st March 2018, £12.99. Buy at Amazon com.

About Tramp Press
Tramp Press is an independent publisher based in Dublin; recent successes include Notes to Self by Emilie Pine, Sara Baume (Spill Simmer Falter Wither, A Line Made By Walking) and Mike McCormack (Solar Bones). More information can be found at

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