Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Review: JANUARY FIFTEENTH by Rachel Swirsky


Rating: 4/5 stars 

January fifteenth is UBI Day: the day that all citizens receive their universal basic income. This near-future dystopian novella contains four POVs, all from women in different paths of life, as they navigate yet another UBI Day:  

Hannah: a poor single mom in New York who leaves her two young kids at home while she treks out through the snow to collect her UBI payment, hoping they’ll be safe from her stalker ex-wife.

Janelle: a Chicago journalist who is going around interviewing different people on “windfall day” about their feelings regarding UBI.

Olivia: a rich college student in Colorado who is celebrating “waste day” with her friends, where they compete to see who can most ludicrously squander their UBI money. 

Sarah: a very pregnant teen girl in Utah walking to town with her sister-wives to collect their UBI payment. 

The novella is split into different segments of UBI Day: early, morning, midday, afternoon, evening, and late. Each part of the day contains one chapter from each of the four perspectives to follow how the four women’s lives vary during this specific day. 

The idea of universal basic income is very interesting and can be the grounds for both utopian and dystopian stories. January Fifteenth is kind of both.

I really like that the story goes into four very different women’s lives across the country and shows how UBI can be both a benefit and a hindrance. For one woman, it allowed her to escape an abusive relationship. For another, it is normal supplemental income. For one, it is completely extraneous and unnecessary money. And for the last, it is the means to realize a whole new life for herself. 

The one thing I didn’t like about this story was the misrepresentation of Mormon culture. Of course the cult group is located in Utah, and of course they are sister-wives, and of course they are an offshoot of the Mormon religion. It’s like the author knows nothing except for stereotypes about members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including the fact that calling us Mormons is disrespectful.  *sigh* I wish people would stop presenting the religion in such a derogatory way because it perpetuates incorrect stereotypes. The Church is not a cult and no one actually has sister-wives. I know the cult in this novella is supposed to be the FLDS religion instead of the LDS religion, but those unfamiliar with either of those churches and their vast differences would not understand that the author is not necessarily speaking badly about the LDS faith. The handling of the religion was my only real complaint about the story. 

Overall, I quite enjoyed January Fifteenth and would recommend it to those interested in dystopian stories that focus on alternate reality ideas for how we live in the present day. 

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