Kindred

Narrated by: Kim Staunton
Length: 10 hrs and 55 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (6,715 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The first science-fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of African-American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity.

Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life.

During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she's been given: to protect this young slaveholder until he can father her own great-grandmother.

Author Octavia E. Butler skilfully juxtaposes the serious issues of slavery, human rights, and racial prejudice with an exciting science-fiction, romance, and historical adventure. Kim Staunton's narrative talent magically transforms the listener's earphones into an audio time machine.

©2000 Octavia Butler (P)2000 Recorded Books, LLC

Critic Reviews

"[ Kindred] is a shattering work of art with much to say about love, hate, slavery and racial dilemmas, then and now." ( Los Angeles Herald Examiner)
"Truly terrifying." ( Essence)
"Butler's literary craftsmanship is superb." ( The Washington Post Book World)

Featured Article: Great Listens from African American Authors


Contemporary Fiction. Mystery & Thriller. Sci-Fi. Fantasy. Horror. Talented Black authors stand out in all the major categories. To help inspire your search for some of the most essential Black voices writing fiction today, here are three outstanding African American authors in each of five categories, with 15 must-listens from today’s most acclaimed and top-selling African American authors. You can decide which audiobook you might want to check out first.

Editor's Pick

Shakes you to your bones
"I approached Kindred about a year ago knowing it was a classic. I don’t usually do well with classics—I get impatient with old-fashioned language and plodding plots—but this wasn’t like that at all. I was thrown off my expectations from chapter one. This story is gripping and fast-paced and uncomfortable and every bit as genius as when it was first released forty years ago. Listening with Kim Staunton’s narration made it, if possible, even more hauntingly real. This one stays with you."
Melissa B., Audible Editor

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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Story

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Octavia is awesome!!

I have read many of Octavia's books so I was excited to see one of them here. Wish they had more, I would get them all. Anyway this book is very good and the reader is excellent. I didn't have any trouble keeping track of the characters even with one reader. The book is surreal and enveloping. You don't know what to think or what might happen. The book is disturbing at times because part of it occurs in the 1800s during slavery. This book is great stuff!!

40 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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The Past of Slavery Still Moves and Wounds Us

Octavia Butler's Kindred is a terrible, fascinating, and moving novel, so vivid in its examination of the Southern slave system and its negative effects on slaves (especially) and masters (subtly). Butler puts her protagonist Dana Franklin, a contemporary African American woman, into incredibly difficult physical, moral, and existential situations via time travel to the antebellum Maryland plantation of her ancestors. Although there is no scientific explanation for the time travel, Butler's depiction of life on a slave plantation is convincingly detailed and realistic.

Kim Staunton does a marvelous job reading Kindred. Her natural voice is just right for Dana's warm, thoughtful, and honest first-person narration. Staunton effortlessly reads the voices of various characters, from an educated Southern Californian black woman of the 1970s to a Maryland slave or slave-owner of the early 19th century. There are moments of intense suspense and horrific violence, as well as moments of melting kindness and (nearly) redemptive understanding.

That I, a white man, had no trouble empathizing and identifying with Butler's black, female protagonist narrator Dana, but that I also uncomfortably found myself thinking that I would probably be at least as bad a master as Rufus Weylin, agreeing with Dana's white husband that life for the slaves on the Weylin plantation was not as bad as it could be (which meant that I was to some degree taking too lightly their pain living it), and longing for an impossibly happy ending, all testify to Butler's skill as a writer.

This book should be read by anyone who thinks that slavery really wasn't so bad after all or that the past is past. It should be read by anyone who wants to experience a powerful and absorbing story read by an excellent actress-reader.

81 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Felt the Experience

I had not read any work by Octavia Butler prior to her death - I wasn't really interested in Sci-Fi. This book was an enjoyable read, not traditional sci-fci but part social commentary and part history lesson. You can really feel the characters (great narrator) and feel empathy for all of them. I had a very different perspective of the time period after listening to this book.

52 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great view of black Antebellum South in a novel

At first, I thought I had purchased a time travel novel for young adults. As I listened, I realized that the story presented a pretty accurate view of life in Antebellum South for the African American slave. It is presented through the eyes of a modern African American woman and it was eye opening. I've always enjoyed a touch of time travel and that was handled very well by the narrator so that you realized when you were in various times. Also, check into the authoress. She is quite famous in her own right and knowing about her added to the novel in my opinion. I definitely would consider this book. It is not preachy; it is just a good novel about someone who finds herself in the pre-Civil War south.

47 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Engaging time-travel into slavery

I enjoyed this story about Dana, an African-American woman in the 1970's, who was suddenly pulled into the past. She goes to Maryland in the early 1800's, to a slave plantation. Seeing and experiencing slavery from the viewpoint of a modern and educated black woman was powerful and engaging. Dana gets thrown back and forth through time a number of times. Dana is connected through time to a young white boy, the son of the plantation owner. This story is not especially deep or edgy, but it was fast-paced, and did draw me in. The secondary characters and details of everyday living did not come alive as much as I had hoped, but I still enjoyed it.

7 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Simply written, but full of wisdom

Kindred's writing style doesn't use a lot of flowery speech and metaphors, but it's enjoyable and straight to the point. It's impressive the range of topics which it covers. I actually wish that I could have been assigned this book in high school, because I'd love to get an academic take on it.

15 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good story, sometimes uninspired reading

Every reading is an interpretation in a way. This reading strove very hard for a long time to avoid any interpretation. She does a fine job with the accents but can't seem to get into the emotional state of the protagonist. What it ends up being is overly cheery and overly enunciated, as though it were being read to children.

But the story itself is engrossing.

11 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Really good listen

This is pretty much a historical novel with a bit of SF icing, focusing almost exclusively on the relationships built between a mid-1970's modern black woman who is continually sent back in time to save an ancestor from an early death.

10 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Incredible

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

19 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Should have been...

The story line should have lent itself to a great tale. It did not. It was simplistic, sometimes silly. For example, the time travelers assumed the people in the era they visited were somehow ignorant because they did not "understand" things the way they did. Also, it was ridiculous that Rufus accepted that Dana was a time traveler so easily. I actually went back to see if it was categorized as a young adult genre - it was not. The narrator better suited to reading a children's book. Her narration added a frustration to an already superficial story. I can only recommend this book to someone that wants a book that requires little effort.

35 people found this helpful

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  • Alistair Shaw
  • 02-27-17

I am so glad I listened to goodreads on this.

this was amazing. simply staggering. I feel sorry for everyone in this book, the writing is powerful and clever, simple and clear.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jess
  • 03-29-09

Gripping

This is obviously a classic sci-fi novel, so I'm sure people will be well aware of its importance in general (This is a really good general review of the book: http://brownfemipower.com/archives/329) . But this is also a fantastic reading, I was on tenterhooks from beginning to end...

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mr. P. Duffield
  • 11-27-16

Powerful and challenging

A solid and nuanced performance, and a book that grips you, even when it goes to the most challenging places a human narrative can go. There's no simple moralising, no easy-to-swallow hero's struggle, just an uncomfortably honest and sometimes brutal exploration of what having complete social power over another human being means. The fantastical framing isn't wasted either, it forms a subtle symbolism and a gentle entry point for the events of the book, without ever overwhelming the human drama or dulling the impact of the story. Needs to be listened to!!

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Antoinette
  • 05-16-20

Engaging

The narrator brought this story to life, bringing you along for the ride. However, I was annoyed by the perennial belief in the antagonist Rufus by the protagonist. I just didn’t get how her belief in him was perpetually renewed despite every evidence to the contrary.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Unwin
  • 05-16-20

wow!

I loved this book, found myself driving around when nearly home so I could continue to listen, never wanted it to end.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Strayficshion
  • 05-06-20

Completely compelling account of slavery

If you're not black - that's a lot of us - and you've never been a slave - that's most of us; this story puts you right in the middle of American slavery where we can touch the edges of experiencing it ourselves. As you might expect from Butler, this is science fiction but without lasers, phasers, or malevolent AI. Instead it tells the story of slavery through family as the protagonist finds herself pulled back in time from 1976 to antebellum Maryland in the US; a modern black woman with rights and expectations suddenly stripped of these as she is drawn to the aid of a white ancestor with his own rights and expectations. Thrown back and forth through time, answering his unknowing calls for help and being released when each threat is resolved, she spends sometimes minutes sometimes months in a world where she can be whipped for looking at someone the wrong way. The story is generational, her own survival dependent on that of the white man brought up to own, use, and trade in slaves.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jacob MM
  • 04-14-20

Kim Staunton incredible performance

Narration here felt very loyal to Octavia Butler, even evolving the accents of the characters through their journey.

Complicity is a painful part of the characters' experiences in this novel and at the same time helps it feel true and makes it feel every more important and heartfelt. Trauma pulls us all back to face versions of ourselves that we thought had escaped the fate of being born 200 years previous.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • parodi
  • 05-09-19

Overall good read

An interesting story and concept of time travel, identity, and slavery. It was a good book to listen to

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • bohobo
  • 04-08-19

Fantastic.

Never a dull moment. Each character is wholly unique yet believable. Historical fiction meets Sci fi and it's the most perfect blend.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Rott1
  • 04-03-19

Less Sci fi more history

I was a reluctant listener initially as I find reading about slavery very hard. However this book is written in good description without the gore. It's still a horrific time though. The relationship between Ru and Dana is simple yet complex. I found myself enjoying the whole story. I would have liked more findings in the epilogue to tie those loose ends.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Casey
  • 01-31-17

Get past the beginning.

Hard to get into and the voices are blended by the reader.
However, gives a good understanding of slave life and well handled time travel elements. Overall much enjoyed.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-01-19

Grim but Beautiful

This book was made mandatory for a university course I took. at first I was apprehensive as it might just be another grim retelling of slavery but with the way it toys with so many wonderful aspects it just keeps you invested. I highly recommend if you've the time spare.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-31-19

Interesting time jump story

This story about an African-american woman jumping back in time, the time before the civil war. I found the start a little confusing but the end was wow. Issues of slavery, freedom, violence and rap and how this linked to central characters. The narrator made this story stand out and hatd to press stop on.