Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Margaret Atwood attempts to light flame-resistant Handmaid's Tale on fire

Author Margaret Atwood attempts to light a flame-resistant copy of her book The Handmaid's Tale in a video released on May 24, 2022. (Image: screenshot/Penguin Random House)

Atwood Releases Fire-Proof Copy of 'Handmaid's Tale' to Combat GOP Book-Banning

"To see her classic novel about the dangers of oppression reborn in this innovative, unburnable edition is a timely reminder of what's at stake in the battle against censorship."

Julia Conley

Proceeds from an auction of an unusual edition of Margaret Atwood's classic dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale will go to the free expression advocacy group PEN America, as the group stands up to right-wing attempts to ban books in the United States.

The single copy of the novel is made entirely of flame-resistant material, as evidenced in a video released Monday in which Atwood herself attempts to light the book on fire.

Atwood and the publishing company Penguin Random House announced Monday that the book will be auctioned off at Sotheby's New York, both to help PEN America fight censorship and as a challenge to enacted and attempted book bans.

"To see her classic novel about the dangers of oppression reborn in this innovative, unburnable edition is a timely reminder of what's at stake in the battle against censorship," Markus Dohle, CEO of Penguin Random House, told the Associated Press Tuesday.

The publisher worked with Atwood, PEN America, the Toronto-based creative agency Rethink, and a bookbinding studio called the Gas Company to create the book.

The flame-proof copy is made of thin sheets of Cinefoil, an aluminum product, and was sewn together using nickel copper wire.

The creation of the book comes as attempts to ban books by lawmakers and school districts have surged to their highest level since the American Library Association began recording such censorship two decades ago.

The group reported 729 challenges to materials in schools and libraries. Last week, more than 1,000 children's book authors and artists signed a letter condemning "the efforts by organized groups to purge books from our nation's schools."

The Handmaid's Tale was banned in schools in Texas and Kansas last year.

According to PEN America, as Republicans center their 2022 electoral campaigns largely on protesting the teaching of the United States' long history of racial injustice and discussions of gender identity in public schools, GOP lawmakers in 42 states have proposed nearly 200 pieces of legislation seeking to limit school discussions of such topics.

The unburnable copy of The Handmaid's Tale is "an unforgettable visual metaphor" for the current political climate in the U.S., Atwood told the AP.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Family of Officer Who Died After Jan. 6 Won't Shake Hands With McConnell, McCarthy

"No one should shake hands with insurrectionist sympathizers," said Voto Latino.

Jessica Corbett ·


On Election Day, Warnock Supporters Urge Georgians 'Don't Walk, Run to the Polls!'

"The stakes could not be higher," said Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Alexis McGill Johnson, who campaigned for the Democratic senator. "Freedom is on the ballot."

Jessica Corbett ·


Revealing New Evidence in Abu Akleh's Killing, Al Jazeera Sues Israeli Forces at ICC

The news network said the journalist's killing was part of a "wider attack on Al Jazeera, and journalists in Palestine."

Julia Conley ·


'Heartbreaking' and 'Pathetic': US Obstructs Patent Waiver for Covid Tests and Treatments

"There have been at least 290,000 deaths from Covid-19 since the WTO punted on the question of global access to tests and treatments back in June," said one advocate. "How many more need to die before the U.S. joins the right side of history?"

Kenny Stancil ·


Fears of Escalation as Ukraine Answers Russian Missile Onslaught With Strike Deep Inside Invader's Territory

Ukrainian drones bombed two air bases more than 300 miles inside Russia, reportedly killing three soldiers, wounding four others, and damaging multiple warplanes.

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo