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'Give Me Your Hand' Explores Female Mysteries And Monstrosities

Suspense writer Megan Abbott has been busy lately. She's been writing for HBO's The Deuce, and adapting two of her own books for television.

This week, her most recent novel, Give Me Your Hand is out — it's the story of two young, brilliant, female scientists named Kit and Diane. The two women were friends in high school, but when Diane shares a dark secret, the friendship is torn apart.

They're later reunited as they compete for a prestigous spot on a scientific research team studying Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, or PMDD. It's an extreme form of PMS that scientists estimate affects between 5 and 8 percent of women.

Abbott says she chose to make it a major part of her new book because "an ongoing fascination for me is this sort of idea that the female body is monstrous, and that women aren't in control of their emotions, and all of that. But the fact is, there is a real thing, and it's not uncommon, and like so many women's health issues, it's just been very under-researched and stigmatized. It's also been used in a few cases as a criminal defense," she adds, "which is how I first began reading about it."

Interview Highlights

On what motivates women to kill

It's so much of course about what has been projected upon women throughout time — you know, we're always sort of the victim of hundreds of legends and stereotypes and archetypes. And I think that women commit murder far less frequently, and when they do, it's so much more shocking to people, somehow. So I think there is a desire to somehow make it seem monstrous. And also make it seem extraordinary, because why would women ever be violent? They should be happy!

On the line between friendship and rivalry

It is really tricky — there's that phrase that gets bandied around, "frenemy," for those women in our lives who we are very close to, but there is that competitive instinct. And I think part of it is that still as a culture, women are not supposed to be ambitious or competitive in the same way, and when they are, it's frightening. So it gets sort of subverted, or pushed down or suppressed, and when it does emerge, it can emerge in odd ways. And I'll confess, while I was writing this, it was during the presidential campaign so the fear of female ambition was very much on my mind.

On being a TV writer in the age of #MeToo

I think there is a great desire for change, and I do see that. When I was working on The Deuce, in the past they had been primarily all men in the writers' room, and this time there were three women, and of course it changed the conversation. And I think that I have noticed they're more conscious of it. The pilot I'm working on ... we have a female director, a female DP, two female writers that wrote the pilot. So I do think that before ... you might have had to justify that and make the case, but at least in this moment, you don't have make that case anymore, it's clear.

You do worry about backlash — I guess we're just so, as women, we've seen these windows before, and then we've seen them close on our fingers. So I think this time a lot more of use have wedged our bodies underneath that window, so to speak, to make sure it doesn't close again. And many men, too.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.
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