My current research project deals with women in dystopian fiction (with some sci-fi crossover), and it’s been to my eternal shame that I’ve never read any Octavia E. Butler. Thankfully, crystalclear got me Kindred for the Cannonball exchange last Christmas, and I was more than eager to dig in. In February of 2016, I was on a conference panel with a professor who had read a paper on Kindred, which had piqued my interest in the first place. It was an intriguing historical time-travel novel, one I was not prepared for entirely.
It is the 1970s, and Dana has just celebrated her 26th birthday with her husband, Kevin. Suddenly, she is thrust into antebellum Maryland, a bizarre event made dangerous by her African-American body. In rescuing a white boy from drowning, Dana’s fate becomes tied up with his own for survival. She travels to and from Maryland, with and without Kevin, as she begins to realize that in order for her own life to be saved, she must protect this young man’s. He is, after all, her ancestor.
This book is startling, rich, and violent. Butler avoids sugarcoating the narrative, and the time-travel element, while not fully understandable or fleshed out, is nevertheless an intriguing twist on a slave narrative. Dana’s modern sensibility is a great way to explore the problem of slavery and race relations that gird the American Dream even to this day. I had a lot to chew on as I read, and the conclusion itself is rather startling, even though you get the conclusion in the very first chapter of the book. I recommend reading it, and I will be seeking out all of Butler’s other work.
Cross-posted to my blog.