I need to say straight away that I love the novel Kindred, which I read for a Black Women’s Writers class in college. It was an inspired choice to put on the syllabus that also included Song of Solomon, Brothers and Sisters by Bebe Moore Campbell, Dessa Rose by Sherley Anne Williams among others. I think that that novel is a tremendous combination of sci fi, 1970s Black writing, political fire, angst, and a few other things all tied into one great novel. It shares some really important themes with someone like Gayl Jones, such as how do we deal with the violent family histories that contributed to and created the bodies of today? How do we try to make sense of who is contained within this vessel of ourselves? I am not a Black woman, but that class, and in particularly that novel put those questions into my mind.
So where am I going with this? Well, basically, Kindred already asks those questions. And it’s a book you can just read. It’s also not a hugely difficult book to read. It’s relatively short, it’s straightforward enough, and its themes are its denseness, not its writing. And so, who is this graphic novel for?
As a teacher, I often think about ways to incorporate visual texts into my classroom for matters of interest, access, discussions of art, and for literacy concerns. This graphic novel’s language is mostly borrowed from the novel and so in terms of literacy, the value is kind of there but not clear. But in terms of the content, I think I would be more comfortable teaching and discussing the novel than the graphic novel, which includes a few moments of kind of unnecessary nudity, meaning I would have trouble justifying it to administration or parents.
And the artwork is good, but not exceptional. It doesn’t stand out a really key component that this text unlocked. I would love to see a movie of this novel, so I am not against that in general.
So I am merely left with this kind of being a vanity project perhaps sanctioned by the Octavia Butler estate, but without a clear purpose.
Don’t get me wrong: the story holds up….you should just read the novel.