I tend to listen to an audio-book while driving, read a paperback or thin hardcover on my lunch break and then save thicker hardcover books for at home. My copy of Kindred was a paperback so it was on the lunch rotation which meant it took me a lot longer to read than it deserved.
At this point I think we all know the gist of Butler’s Kindred but here is a quickie synopsis for the lone person who missed all the other reviews and/or Book Club discussion. Dana, an African-American woman from California, is transported back to the Antebellum South, namely the plantation in Maryland her ancestors are from. Each time her great-great-great grandfather, Rufus, has a near death experience Dana vanishes from her life in California and appears just in time to rescue him. Each time Dana goes back she gets stuck for an increasing amount of time which, as a modern black woman launched into the peak of slavery, puts her own life in danger.
“This is the biggest lot of abolitionist trash I ever saw.”
“No it isn’t,” I said. “That book wasn’t even written until a century after slavery was abolished.”
“Then why the hell are they still complaining about it?”
Dana is pretty open with Rufus and the slaves she meets on the plantation that she is from the future but she wisely keeps her bloodline a secret. Rufus doesn’t seem to question why Dana comes to save him which is pretty much Peak White Dude. Rufus, who is a young boy when he first meets Dana, is protective of her while also still having the mindset of a racist white slave owner. It is an interesting dynamic that becomes more intricate the longer they know each other.
I was really impressed with Dana’s foresight and planing, this is why I think our girl who have benefited from Google, since she altered her present day life in order to safely travel back to the past. She quickly assumed she would go again so she packed a Go Bag with personal care items as well as clothes and a knife.
And I began to realize why Kevin and I had fitted in so easily into this time. We weren’t really in. We were observers watching a show. We were watching history happen around us. And we were actors.
I’ll admit y’all I didn’t have the same fears some of you had when Kevin got stuck back in time. He was an older, educated white guy- he was always going to be fine. I did hate that he had to live 5 years without Dana while she only week a few weeks but I doubt his life was ever in any danger.
Lastly, and I touched on this in the discussion, I thought it was very short sighted of Weylin to threatened to try and sell Dana. A lot of y’all said it was more of an empty threat or something that just further detailed how little black lives mattered when even a free black woman, who Weylin knew was a freewoman, could be sold without batting an eyelash. I just think it would be bad business if the slave you sold evaporated (successfully ran away to someone unaware of Dana’s peculiar ability) only to show back up on your plantation. Wouldn’t the new owner think you stole her? It’s a minor quibble, I know.
I think Butler did a great job in creating a realistic portrait of plantation life. Life was hard, the rules were strict & heavily enforced and some of the slave punishments had graphic, uncomfortable descriptions but that all added to the gripping narrative. Overall Butler is an amazing author and she managed to create a story that felt completely realistic despite its fantastical premise- Teresaelectro calls it “speculative fiction” which is a great term and a few other people called it magical realism which is also accurate. This was the only book I hadn’t read from the suggested titles so I am very glad my fellow Cannonballers voted for it and pushed up my inevitable reading.