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.
How’s THAT for a book description? WOW. I was reading the first part of the introduction and Robert Crossley mentions that true American slave narrative died out with the last of the American slaves…but Octavia Butler broke that barrier by writing the first science fiction novel by a black woman. She sent her protagonist back to the most dangerous time possible…to save a person more likely to hurt her than be grateful.
There’s nothing about Kindred that doesn’t break your heart to pieces. This might be technically sci-fi, but Crossley is absolutely accurate when he compares it to slave narratives like 12 Years a Slave. Everything about this book hits just as hard.
It’s important to note that Dana’s husband in her modern life is white. I think it’s one of the most poignant choices Butler made when writing her characters. Having Kevin be white provides a perfect illustration of how easy it is to get sucked down into society’s racist norms, and how careful we need to be when we try to vocalize our thoughts and questions.
Look at this conversation, and think about how many times you’ve seen it, heard it, maybe said it yourself. It definitely made me take a step back myself.
“‘Wait a minute,’ he said. ‘I’m not minimizing the wrong that’s being done here. I just…’ ‘Yes you are. You don’t mean to be, but you are.'”
Ouch, right? The #ReadWomen group keeps picking hard hitters each month, and I’m so glad they do. The more books that make me think like this, the better, in my opinion.