When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

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Bellwether Prize winner Hillary Jordan’s provocative new novel, When She Woke, tells the story of a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of a not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated but chromed—their skin color is genetically altered to match the class of their crimes—and then released back into the population to survive as best they can. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder.

In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a path of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith.


About Hillary Jordan

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Hillary Jordan’s first novel, Mudbound, was the winner of the 2006 Bellwether Prize for fiction and an Alex Award from the American Library Association. It was named the NAIBA Fiction Book of the Year and one of the Top Ten Debut Novels of the Decade by Paste magazine. Jordan grew up in Dallas, Texas, and Muskogee, Oklahoma. She lives in New York City. Find her online at www.hillaryjordan.com.
Published October 4, 2011 by Algonquin Books. 344 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for When She Woke

Star Tribune

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"When She Woke" is tense, energetic and lively, a gripping story but also a tale about how America has lost its way.

Oct 11 2011 | Read Full Review of When She Woke

The Washington Post

The very cute lesbian opines that “if God is the Creator, if God englobes every single thing in the universe, then God is everything, and everything is God.” Hannah is genuinely shocked;

Sep 19 2011 | Read Full Review of When She Woke

Washington Independent Review of Books

Hillary Jordan’s latest novel, When She Woke, is nothing short of a revelation about the power of a government to brainwash its people.

Nov 01 2011 | Read Full Review of When She Woke

Dallas News

Now, they were the color of newly shed blood.” Dallas resident Hannah, after being convicted of murder, spends a month in jail – all of her movements monitored and viewable, by anyone, on the Internet – before being released to spend the rest of her 16-year sentence in the prison of her own flesh.

Oct 05 2011 | Read Full Review of When She Woke

Denver Post

Dale also experiences hell, different from Hannah's but seemingly no less painful.

Nov 13 2011 | Read Full Review of When She Woke

Review (Barnes & Noble)

"She could sense the cameras behind the mirrors," writes Jordan about Hannah's incarceration, "…and the watchers behind the cameras, the guards, doctors and technicians employed by the state and the millions watching at home."

Oct 05 2011 | Read Full Review of When She Woke


The usual suspects muddy up her life — the charismatic mega-preacher, the rigid mom, the abusive brother-in-law, the leering males who harass her once she is released, the lesbian champion of privacy and civil rights who initiates her transformation.

Oct 02 2011 | Read Full Review of When She Woke

SF Signal

Her character changes so completely – yet so honestly – as the book progresses that when you reach the end it’s hard to remember who she was at the beginning of the story.

Dec 10 2011 | Read Full Review of When She Woke


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Sep 19 2011 | Read Full Review of When She Woke

SF Crow's Nest

After being chromed red, the colour of murder, Hannah is released back into society which then treats her as it sees fit, thus making the punishment fit the crime.

Oct 25 2012 | Read Full Review of When She Woke

Persephone Magazine

He’d remarked that drugs should be legal and provided by the government, but they should turn you bright blue, “So the rest of the world could know what they’re dealing with.” In When She Woke, Jordan uses that idea to explore the stigmatization that would undoubtedly result.

Nov 15 2011 | Read Full Review of When She Woke

ForeWord Reviews

Part of what’s disturbing about the world Jordan has created is that it’s not altogether unfamiliar, a world where faith is politics and Big Brother knows everything.

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Hannah’s rejection of God and her heavily religious upbringing mellows as she comes into contact with more liberal Christians, but the reconciling of her religious beliefs with her new friends and discoveries feels like a heavy-handed way to preach to young Christians that they can support femini...

Apr 13 2012 | Read Full Review of When She Woke

Star News Online

Hannah names hers "Pearl" after Hester Prynne's daughter in "The Scarlet Letter."

Oct 16 2011 | Read Full Review of When She Woke


The controversial and provocative subjects in this book and the passionate discussions it can trigger make it one that book clubs will embrace.

Feb 09 2012 | Read Full Review of When She Woke

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