While browsing my reading wish list on Kindle I came across Kindred. It had been on the list for so long I didn’t even remember saving it. When I opened it I remembered why I’d saved it. It’s by the first African-American science fiction writer I’d heard of. Kindred is part time travel and part slave narrative. I’m not sure why I thought that would be interesting but let’s get into it.
Let’s talk about Octavia E. Butler first. She’s the smiling lady on the left who does not look like she would ever in all her life write this crazy shit. Octavia was born in Pasadena, California on June 22, 1947. She lost her dad at an early age, her mom worked as a maid, she was dyslexic, and began writing stories when she was 10 years old. Kindred was her fourth book and was first published in 1979. Ms. Butler died in 2006 at the age of 58.
I think the book cover on Amazon attracted me. I used the original cover as the featured picture at the top of this page. The Amazon cover is on the right. After doing some research on Ms. Butlers work I realized she chose awesome book covers. But I won’t be tricked into reading another one of them because of the cover . Fool me once…
Kindred is a first person account of a young African American woman writer, Dana. In 1976, she and her a white husband, Kevin Franklin, have just moved into a new apartment. While unpacking Dana becomes dizzy and faints. When she comes to she is on a plantation in pre Civil War Maryland. A young white boy named Rufus is drowning in a river. Dana jumped in, drags his unconscious butt to shore and resuscitated him. SCREEEECH!
I’m going to just put it out there right now. The thing that pissed me off through this entire book was the lack of “what the hell?!?” on everyone’s part. Dana didn’t so much as say, “Oh my God! How the eff! Oh Lord no! ” She didn’t cry. She didn’t look for a way to get back to 1976. She didn’t run around like the complete fool I would act if anything like that ever happened to me. I do know that Rufus would have drowned. Bye, Rufus. I can’t help you, I have my own problems. And her husband Kevin didn’t act like a person who just saw his wife disappear right before his eyes! I mean really – come on! Can you imagine what you would do if you woke up in a different time period or saw someone disappear. I know it’s science fiction but damn! In science fiction movies when the monster shows up people scream right? I mean it’s still a monster.
Okay, moving on. Rufus the little boy she saved, grows up to be a no good piece of shit. Dana is pulled back to the plantation whenever Rufus is badly hurt or dying to save his ass. Funny thing is she didn’t seem to mind going because she believes Rufus and a slave named Alice are her ancestors. So, she needs to keep Rufus alive until her great-great-great something or other, Hagar is born, or she won’t exist.
Between the time Dana made her first trip and the end of the story Dana gets beaten and whipped several times. She attempts suicide, is nearly raped and is made to work in the fields. She’s degraded and berated by Rufus’ family and the black slaves. At one point her husband Kevin holds onto her while she traveled back in time because it’s a good idea for a black woman and a white man who are married to shuttle back into slavery time together. Right? Super side eye and teeth sucking on my part here. In the end, Dana had to stab Rufus and lose her arm to his death grip get back home and put an end to the time travel.
I’m as good as the next person when it comes to suspended disbelief, but damn. I read somewhere you should say at least two positive things when reviewing a book even if you wouldn’t recommend it. 1. The book is well written and Ms. Butler’s skillful descriptions of the times and places kept me entertained. 2. I was able to get lot’s of house work done while listening to the audiobook.
Kindred is one of Octavia Butler’s best-selling novels so my perspective is probably uncommon. Have you read this book or any others by this author? Let me know in the comments.
Until we meet again, smile, live love and be grateful.