Kindred by Octavia E. Butler


Why didn’t everyone I’ve ever known force me in a room and make me read this book? How has it taken me this long to finally pick it up? It is going to take a while for me to forgive myself for being this late to the Octavia Butler party.

Here is the blurb on this book

Dana, a modern Black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the White son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

This was the book I didn’t know I always needed. It has a Black female protagonist, time travel, slavery, interracial relationships, colorism, and so much more. It is Afrofuturist goodness. There is so much complexity and so many levels that are layered in. Butler is deliberate with her work and it pays off. A short book, that packs a huge punch.

This book is mostly set during slavery and takes those issues on head on. The events that take place on the plantation are brutal and Butler does delve into that, if you struggle with graphic descriptions of abuse be cautious with this book. (It is worth stating, that any book that is honest about slavery will have graphic language that surrounds life for Black people in that time.) The genius of this book is how Butler juxtaposes life in the present (1976) with that of the antebellum South. The book is really asking us to explore the effects of Slavery on present day Black Americans. The guilt and obligation of the Black savior. What is the role of the Black woman in relationship to the power of the White man? Is personal good more valid than collective evil? How much do Black people have to give of themselves in order to protect the systems that preserve White supremacy?

I’m not sure that in the end I felt any closer to answering those questions. I’m not sure that in the end I ever really liked the characters at all. I did appreciate them as vehicles to look deeper into what Butler is examining when it comes to race and gender power politics. The book is plot driven, and that makes for a fast-paced book, but it does leave out some of the internal struggles that would have developed more well rounded characters. As much as I enjoyed this book, I did miss having a connection with the characters.

I think this book is important for what it is, (a Black Sci-Fi book written by a Black woman in the 1970’s), and I also think this book is important for what it says and what it brings up. Now that I’ve finally read something by Octavia Butler, I can not wait to read more

Go pick up your copy of Kindred it is a classic for a reason. Enjoy!

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (2003)
  • 4/5 stars
  • Buy Kindred on Amazon

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