Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

kin5c9746fddc976b25938673955514141414c3441 Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Beacon Press, Boston,  1988

A young black women, Dana Franklin is living in California in 1976. Suddenly, after a bout of dizzyness, she finds herself in Maryland sometime in the early 1880’s.  She is  dragged through time by Rufus, a white man, son of a slave owner.  Anytime he is in danger of dying Dana is drawn sickeningly to his side.   There is a deep connection between these two and an intense love hate relationship.  Dana is thrown into a slave owning household and must contend with everything that entails.  Why?

Dana eventually realizes that Rufus is her great great grandfather and that she must help him, at least until the birth of his daughter, Hagar, whose mother is a slave in Rufus household.  Hagar will start Dana’s family line.  As Dana travels through time again and again,  Rufus grows older and becomes more hostile and abusive.  Dana and those around her suffer the back-breaking work, verbal battering and physical cruelty that is slavery.  What a realization, that your ancestor was a slave owner who raped women, sold children and beat  people for the slightest miss-step. What a horror, knowing that you must keep him alive.

An intensely researched and well-written book, Octavia Butler argued that Kindred was not science fiction, the time travel element is never explained.  Kindred is more like horror and Dana’s dilemma left a sickening  feeling in the pit of my stomach.  This book is a striking presentation of the mix of power, race and gender that was slavery in the United States.

From an interview with Octavia E. Butler found at the Writers&Books web site:

W&B: You said that Kindred was the first novel that you knew of that tried to make readers understand what it felt like to be a slave.

Butler:Not so much make a person understand, but confront a modern person with that reality of history. It’s one thing to read about it and cringe that something horrible is happening. I sent somebody into it who is a person of now, of today, and that means I kind of take the reader along and expose them in a way that the average historic novel doesn’t intend to, can’t.

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9 Comments

Filed under Challenges, ColorMeBrown

9 responses to “Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

  1. This is oneof my all time favorite books. Thanks for this excellent review of it.

  2. What an interesting concept…time travel to better understand the progression of black rights. I don’t need explanation to enjoy it. And with CBJ’s approval, and yours, how can you lose?

  3. This was one those reads that leaves you spent. Took me days to recover. Butler forces the reader to truly appreciate the complexity of the relationships and what we will do in order to survive. I thought Roots was rough. This was more intense because like she said you were pulled into the history not observing it.

    Glad you linked to Color Me Brown. Thank you.

    • Susan – I had to read Kindred slowly, there were sections that were very difficult. Butler does force us to look at the complexities of survival in a way I found very non-judgmental. We lost her too soon.

  4. I really want to read this book!! I’ve seen a couple of stellar reviews now.

  5. Pingback: Kindred by Octavia Butler « A Good Stopping Point

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