Some stories hit you harder than others. Reading this graphic novel, shortly after watching the film Harriet, struck like a thunderbolt. Some people, mostly belonging to a certain political party, have attempted to make slavery seem not so bad. Which is why works like Kindred are so important.
In Kindred, Dana, a young black woman, married to a white man in 1976, finds herself transported back the mid 1800s to save a white ancestor of hers. She bounces back and forth between the time periods for a while, and has difficulty explaining the physical injuries she suffers while in the past.
Similar to the Water Dancer, this is an unflinching look at the horrors of slavery. The characters are well drawn and you hope against hope that the young man, Rufus, she continually saves during his life is able to move beyond his culture to see the black people around him as fellow human beings. While it is predictable that he is unable to free his mind his fate was one that surprised me.
One of the most interesting aspects of the story occurs when Dana’s husband Kevin is brought with her to the past. She is afraid for him on multiple levels, first because she does not have much control over when she skips through time but also because of how being in that society might affect him. To quote the novel “If he was stranded here for years, some part of this place would rub off on him. To survive, he would have to tolerate the life here. He wouldn’t have to take part in it…but he would have to keep quiet about it”
That is a profound statement to me, and speaks to the many injustices we say every day. How do they affect us and what part of us is being removed when we turn away? Kindred is the best kind of novel, one that makes you think and confront some unpleasant realities about ourselves and our society. Highest recommendation.