This is the fourth time I think I’ve read this book, not counting reading the graphic novel a few years back (which I thought was mostly unnecessary). What stands out to me now reading the book again in 2021 is a few shifts in my personal appreciation for the book, and knowing a little more about Butler’s career. Specifically to the last point, this was the very first novel of Butler’s I’d read. I followed it with Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, which I plan to reread soon. In her career then, these represent an early work, and then two late works. They’re also the most different from her other books by far. Four or five Patternmaster books and three Xenogenesis book really are the bulk of work, and these are more outliers. I would say Fledgling is more like those series than these other books. So in this way, Kindred, being a nearly flawlessly executed book, stands out as being her most singular work. It’s like a virtuoso violinist seeing if they could play the guitar and writing a near perfect song. What I mean by this is that this book most directly tackles race in America, feminism, and the 1970s, and American history.
In terms of my other point, about being a different reader, a few things stand out. It seemed like an odd choice to me to make her husband white when I first read the book. Then I figured it had to do with allowing the plot to develop as it did. But now, there’s a scene in which Dana is trying to explain the subtle dangers of the plantation (where the husband feels safe, and thinks it could be worse), and the husbands basically says, well, it’s not THAT bad. And if that isn’t the whitest thing ever (well, other than being a slave owner) and so similar to the same conversatons we’re having today. The conversations about meeting each others’ respective families hit upon the same ideas.