Friday, August 15, 2014

Review Me Twice - Kindred by Octavia Butler

I was introduced to this book (and Octavia Butler) in a class in college, by a pretty awesome professor (and no, it wasn't Dr. Miskec).  Butler manages to take stories that should seem completely improbable and make them, well... believable.

Dana is our main character and is constantly getting pulled back to Maryland during slavery era.  Which, considering she's a black female, pretty much means she has zero rights at all ever.  Even if she DID have paperwork proving that she was a free woman, that wouldn't necessarily mean she had any rights.

We quickly learn that she frequently gets pulled back to this era because her (white) ancestor, Rufus, can't seem to keep himself out of trouble.  Between setting his drapes on fire, almost drowning himself and falling out of a tree, the guy almost has a death wish.  Dana just had to keep the guy alive until her ancestor is born.

But the way Butler shows us how Dana, a woman living in the 1970s and black woman with the right to do what she likes, reconciles herself to early 1800s Maryland where she has no rights and isn't even considered human, is powerful.  And the juxtoposition of that against the background of the 1970s where, while she does enjoy all the freedoms of a white person, she doesn't necessarily enjoy them without prejudice.

Butler makes powerful, important, statements about race, gender and humanity and she does it in a way that just makes you love her stories without feeling talked down to.

Cassy did a really great job of summarizing the important aspects of this book, so I'll save us all some time by not repeating any of that. One thing I do want to add is how great the relationships are between characters in this book. I don't mean that the relationships themselves are great, because they aren't, for the most part, but the way they're described and how real they are... that's great.

Without giving away too much of the story, it is important to note that Dana is married to a white man in 1976, and this entire experience sheds new light on that fact for both of them. In the antebellum south she is transported to, Dana makes friends and enemies, and some people are both at different times. You're constantly guessing what Rufus - the man who seems to be "calling" her back to his time - is thinking, planning, doing, going to do, because Dana is constantly guessing that, too.

I'm very glad Cassy introduced me to Octavia Butler, because this was a great book.


  1. This sounds like a really cool book. I generally like time travel related stories, provided they are done well.

    1. I think you would really like Butler, Anna. You should really pick her up.