Review: Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

It’s June 9,
1976, Dana is celebrating her 26th birthday with her new husband
Kevin in their new home in Altadena CA. 
Two writers, Dana a black woman, Kevin a white man beginning to build a
life together, when that life is interrupted abruptly by a call to a time and
place that both had only known through the history books. Dana was called back
to her ancestors by one who is critical to her very birth, Rufus Weylin.

 

Rufus, the
son of Tom Weylin a slave owner in Maryland has called Dana to him. She arrives
and has no clue where she is.  She sees a
young boy drowning, pulls him from the water, resuscitates him and as thanks
ends up looking down the long barrel of a shotgun. The language she hears is
different, the dress is different, the time, she does not yet know is
different, not until Rufus calls her back again because he’s in trouble again. At
this second calling, after putting out a fire, she learns from Rufus (Rufe)
that she has landed in 1815 on his father’s plantation and that she is a
nigger.  She realizes too that as long as
he’s in trouble he’s going to call her. 
Thus begins her mission.  She must
keep him and the person with whom he father’s the child Hagar alive.  Over months in her time and decades in their
time, Dana returns repeatedly to Rufus learning the hard lessons of slave life,
the hard lessons of love and loss and the hard lessons of betrayal, and what
the desire to be free really looks like as well as its costs.

 

Kindred is
cunning.  Butler uses the fantasy/science
fiction element of time travel to address the legacy of slavery, racial
stereotype, gender roles and love relationships in one fell swoop.  How this novel escaped me for so long is a
wonder because Butler’s style, her language and the manner in which she
grapples with issues that we grapple with to this day is really breath
taking.  I highly recommend Kindred and
further reading and study of Octavia Butler’s work and person.

 

Rating 5 *****stars.

 

For more on
Octavia Butler a good place to start is her wiki and the links contained
in it. Butler was a vanguard someone we should all know more about.

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