Pandora’s Choice by Yudori provides a powerful narrative about women’s agency and bodily autonomy. Taking place in New York during the 1800s, the story also focuses on the intersectional experiences of women of color in predominantly white spaces.
Pandora, a biracial girl (Asian and white), lives in Boston with two great aunts and an alcoholic father. In a predominantly white community, Pandora craves representation of her racial identity other than the orientalist books her isolated father owns. Her great aunts think that her darker skin tone will hinder her chance to receive potential suitors in the future. For Pandora, whiteness is beautiful and desirable.
Pandora’s late mother, Veronica (Ronnie), having passed away before the story, is a disabled prostitute from France. She’s rumored to either be Chinese or Turkish. When she uses a porcelain prosthetic leg, the public takes pity on her, even her then lover Christopher Blais (Pandora’s father). She’s objectified and stripped of her autonomy. Veronica can only provide her body for others’ pleasures because of limited work opportunities for someone like her.
Pandora’s Choice also generally shines a light on women’s autonomy, colorism, racism, and abortion during the 19th century. Childbirth, seen as a woman’s obligation despite her health, becomes a dangerous burden. Society then restrains women from making bodily choices (still do today) and working in a “man’s” occupation like a doctor. There’s even a scene in which a character performs an abortion to save her maid’s life. Pandora’s mother chooses to have a baby even though it threatens her health.
The ending of Pandora’s narrative arc, open ended, demonstrates the uncertainty of her future. As an adult, she seemingly gives in to society’s expectations of women — polite, domestic, and compliant — but she rebels in secret. She continues her mischievous behavior, including climbing trees, away from the eyes of her great aunts and others.
I highly recommended Pandora’s Choice for its inclusive and captivating narrative.
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Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) currently lives in Virginia.
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