Troubled youth have a very special place in my heart. As an “urban school” student, I know first-hand that many of the teachers there have no faith in the children, and they set them up for failure. Not all, but most of the teachers think of these kids as criminals, and assume they will never get to college. With recent “reforms” in the education system, it has only continued to get worse. This is why, reading a book like Hag-Seed is so entirely refreshing and even though it is a novel, it can be truly inspiring.
Hag-Seed is the retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I have never read The Tempest, so I looked it up to read up on it before really getting into the story, but there was no need. Atwood does a wonderful job at really hashing the two stories together.
Hag-Seed tells the story of Felix, a victim of treachery, who is fired from his job as the Artistic Director of the theater. At first, I wasn’t sure whether he was sane or not, and blamed him for construing the so-called treachery in his head. After some time, Felix accepts a job as a literacy teacher at a prison under a false name. He teaches the convicts through Shakespeare and has them perform elaborate shows that gained so much recognition that it was brought up to the attention of the officials who had destroyed his life. Felix stews in his ideas of revenge for 12 years, before he is given the opportunity to act on them. As the story unravels, you begin to see the parallels in the characters, and are taken through a retelling of the story, through modern times.
Felix treats the convicts as actors, not as criminals. He earns their respect and transforms the barely-literate into Shakespeare-performing actors. The outcome is a very inspiring. It got me thinking of all that urban kids are capable of, if they have the trust of an adult who truly believes in them. Some kids never find that adult, and these convicts found their light while they were already in jail. Is Hag-Seed falsely optimistic? I don’t think so, but then again, I guess I can be an optimistic person as well.
I took a verrrryyyyy long time to read it, but I’m not sure why. It was well-written, engaging, and I really loved the retelling. 5/5
Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.