Octavia E. Butler: Kindred

As I mentioned in the intro post, Kindred was the first book I’d ever read by Octavia Butler. Now, I’ve always been a fan of Sci-fi and Fantasy so I was all for a book that involved the main character being transported to another time period, but the author being a Black woman made it all the more appealing to me.

Growing up, we were never really encouraged to read multicultural literature, and it wasn’t until I was in my late teens and early twenties that I actually started reading African American Literature. Caribbean Literature came even later than that. The only time we ever read books about Black people was during Black History Month, and even those books were mostly written by White people.

I had a really great art teacher my Junior year of high school who told me, during an assignment, that I didn’t have to sketch my subject as a White woman just because she was White in the original image. This incredibly talented White woman gave me permission to create art that reflected me, and I will forever be grateful to her. I don’t know why it took her to give me permission to create in a way that reflected myself, but it did. I promise not to turn this post into one about social and racial issues. The point is, I had to get to the place where I allowed myself to read material that reflected me as well, and my relationship with Octavia Butler’s writing began right around that point, which is probably why I have such a connection to her work—it was the beginning of me coming into who I was.

Before that, I had no idea there were Black Sci-fi writers, or that Butler was basically the Grand Madam of her genre. This book, though dealing greatly with slavery and race relations, is relatively light on the Sci-fi spectrum (compared to some of her other works).

Kindred opens with Dana in the hospital. She tells the reader “I lost an arm on my last trip home.” She’s drowsy and trying to convince the police officers who are questioning her that Kevin, her husband, didn’t hurt her. Kevin is having a difficult time understanding what did happen—all he knows is that when he followed the screams of his wife, he found her in the living room with her arm stuck in the wall as if she were part of the wall itself.

Each chapter is titled after the incident it involves. The first chapter, The River, describes Dana’s first encounter with Rufus. It was her 26th birthday. She and Kevin had just moved into a new house, and as they are unpacking books to put on their shelves, she begins to feel dizzy. She collapses onto her knees and as she attempts to steady herself, Kevin, who’s reaching for her, disappears. When the dizziness subsides, she finds herself in a wooded area with a river running through it, and a child, about 5 or 6 years old, drowning in that river. She runs in and pulls him out, and as she gives him CPR his mother his beating on her back yelling that Dana had killed her son. She yells at the woman to stop and that the boy is alive. The boy, Rufus, coughs and throws up and falls into his mother’s arms crying. But when Dana sits up, she finds herself looking down the barrel of a rifle. Before she has time to process, the dizziness comes back and now she’s in her home again, this time covered in mud, with Kevin asking how she got across the room.

These episodes continue for Dana throughout the novel. Whenever Rufus is in a life-threatening situation he “calls” her and she ends up saving him. Unfortunately for Dana, it’s 1815 (in chapter 2) and Rufus’ father is a slave owner. Dana realizes early on that Rufus is one of her ancestors, along with a free-born Black girl named Alice, and that’s why she keeps being called back to save his life. The Fire, The Fall, The Fight, The Storm, The Rope—these are all the chapters (excluding the Prologue and Epilogue) as well as all the instances Dana gets called back to save Rufus. Because of the time period, she has some serious issues along the way, even to the point where she is gone from Kevin for an entire year.

I will not give you all the juice because it’s a great book and I encourage you to read it. I love how Butler engages her audience while simultaneously teaching lessons. I’ll be honest, I nearly reread the book while writing this post. Of course, I’m completely and utterly biased because I already love Octavia Butler’s writing, and there’s no way I’m going to tell you not to read anything she’s ever written. So take it as you will, but at least give it a glance.

In my next post I will probably talk about Lilith’s Brood, which is the 2000 republished title of the Xenogenesis trilogy: Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago. This series does have aliens in it, and I loved every bit of it. It would be totally awesome if there was a good quality movie made from this series. I’m talking about accurate scripting, true-to-book imagery, and incredible graphics. I’d love to actually see these books come to life on screen because of the incredible detail Butler gives. But if it can’t be done right, it shouldn’t be done at all. Especially when representing the master that Butler is (again, I’m biased).

Anyway, stick around for more!

If you have questions, you know how to reach me.

Happy Reading!


…now if I could just remember who I let borrow Bloodchild