Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
Author: Octavia E. Butler
Published: June 1976
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: April 18-26, 2019
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars
The first science fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity.
Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life. During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given: to protect this young slaveholder until he can father her own great-grandmother.
I came across Kindred when I was looking for books for First Line Friday, and this one has a doozy:
I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm.
That first line, the book description, and the fact that it is the first science fiction written by a black woman piqued my interest in Kindred. My library also offered it in audiobook format: SCORE! The only thing I was worried about was when I borrowed it was the age of the book. Written 30+ years ago, some sci-fi books do not ‘age well’ and become dated quickly. This did not end up being an issue for me as I felt this could take place now. You guys know by now that I am selective with sci-fi and even more selective with fantasy. And did you say TIME TRAVEL!?!?!?! That is the kind of sci-fi and fantasy I can read!
Kindred blew me away. This novel will be in my top reads of the year. I was intrigued the whole time listening to the audiobook and had no idea how it was going to end. It twisted in ways that I did not expect and then that shocker of an ending: OMG, I would have never expected that! This needs to become a limited series that stays true to the novel. Octavia Butler wowed me with Kindred, this is a novel everyone needs to read!
If you are looking for answers to why or how Dana time travels, you will be disappointed. Kindred does not explain the time travel, but the strength of the novel is on the time, location and people of the antebellum time period. Butler must have heavily researched for the novel. Dana interprets the how and why her time traveling happens, hoping she is correct in her thoughts.
Since Kindred takes us back in time, we get a clear picture how slavery was from the view of the African American. Yes, the ‘N word’ is used a great deal in this novel, but that was how people spoke in antebellum times. Parts of the novel will be difficult for some to read. This is a novel that will have you thinking about it long after you have finished reading it.
Kindred is very highly recommended.