Book blogger at Bookwi.se
A bit over a year ago I picked up Octavia Butler’s book Fledgling more by mistake than anything else. I knew the late Octavia Butler was a well known science fiction author, but I had not read anything she had written.
Fledgling, her last book, was about vampires, but was far different from either the young adult Twilight books, the Anne Rice books or the traditional Bram Stoker, book.
I was reluctant to pick up Kindred because of the subject matter. An African American woman gets sent back to Antebellum South. I expected a depressing or superficial book. Instead I found one of the best fiction books I have read this year.
I am a bit allergic to nostalgia, wishing to be back at some mythical point in history is great, for those that were privileged at that point in time.
Dana, both a woman and African American, was not privileged to in 1815 or the later points where she goes back. It is this voice, of the African American and female writer that Butler is known for. But what could be a simplistic (slavery was bad) book was a nuanced look at how culture affect the person.
This past week, with all of the tributes to Nelson Mandela, I was disturbed by those that wanted to focus on his freedom fighting days prior to his arrest without paying any attention to the reality on the ground of what Apartheid was like. Similarly, there is a movement among a small segment of Christians that want to assert that slavery is not objectively evil, but only evil to the extent that slave owners acted sinfully toward their slaves.
This is a level of historical reconstruction similar to holocaust deniers and just as dangerous. If this book were only a modern look at the reality of slavery it would be worth reading, but limited. Instead, it is well written, understands both the evil of slavery and the power of culture and the ability to overcome culture at times.
In some ways this book makes me think of one of my favorite books, The Time Traveler’s Wife. Both are heartbreaking in the way that one person is ripped out of time and another is left behind.
This is not a new book. Kindred was written in 1979 and was the book that allowed Octavia Butler to become a full time writer. Butler later won a MacArthur Foundation Genius grant and multiple Nebula and Hugo awards. I have picked up her Patternist series and Lilith’s Brood Trilogy as part of a recent kindle sale and look forward to reading what I understand is yet again two very different types of stories.
Originally posted on my blog, Bookwi.se
For those of us who have never known the sorrows of the Old South -- and that's, well, all of us -- this book gives us a bitter taste.
The characters, setting, and ideas explored in this book are illuminating. The author and narrator make this surreal journey terrifyingly real; and while I am not sure that I see myself reading this book again, it has done its dark duty and left its mark in the best way possible.
My only regret is that I read this after King's 11-22-63. Had the reverse been true, my expectations for a modern time travel novel wouldn't have been so unfairly high and I could have enjoyed this book even more.
I'm a voracious audiobook listener, rarely found without my iPod.
I only recently discovered Octavia Butler when I read her last book, Fledgling. I was very impressed with her originality and deft handling of racial perspective. Kindred is a wonderful historical fiction. Written in the 70s, this timeless view of a southern slaveholder in the early 1800s is a beautiful story that will stay with me for some time.
Dana is a modern black woman, living in California, when she is mysteriously drawn back in time to rescue a young white boy from drowning. When Rufus appears to be safe, Dana is brought back to her own time, soaking wet and very frightened. Her husband Kevin is shocked to have his wife disappear and reappear, but doesn't hesitate to believe her when she tells her story. A short while later, it happens again. This time Dana finds Rufus starting a fire in his living room. She stops the fire and finds from Rufus that she is in Maryland in 1815.
She quickly comes to the conclusion that she is drawn back to Rufus when his life is in danger. I won't tell more, but this story is wonderful...beginning, middle and end. It's not hokey and the characters are well defined and interesting.
Kindred is an excellent read for anyone interested in historical fiction, African American history and time travel. Octavia Butler is definitely one of the best African American writers of our time.
I'm a recovering librarian. Since I had a stroke in 2002 I have found reading print difficult. I am so grateful for audiobooks.
At first I was troubled by the time-machine quality that pulls the central character back several generations, then it seem to me a brilliant way of looking at history as seen through the lens of modern day values and attitudes.
Finally, I began to also see the underlying metaphor of protecting the ancestors who she would have preferred to distance herself from, even if it cost her an arm, and propelling herself back to the present by the need to save her own life.
I could hardly put it down. This story is so believable in so many ways, it truly makes one think about the way we see the past. Loved it!