Apart from those voracious readers that devour all different genres, it is easy to imagine little overlap between those readers that prefer historicalApart from those voracious readers that devour all different genres, it is easy to imagine little overlap between those readers that prefer historical fiction and those that prefer science fiction. Or those that prefer non-fiction and those that prefer fiction. Regardless, people of all reading habits should read Kindred.
It seems there have always been apologists for the centuries of slavery in the U.S.--individuals that excuse the system and/or the individuals that participated, stealing the bodies, spirits and minds of millions, and robbing a people of their culture, language, self-determination and natural rights (not to mention their very lives). "Slavery wasn't that bad" or "not all slave-owners were cruel to their slaves" or "but Jefferson loved Sally Hemmings"-- the refrains are the same in that they whitewash (a deliberately chosen word) the horror and cruelty of the system itself, even in the face of those individuals that would employ limited compassion to the enslaved individuals.
Butler's Kindred destroys these apologetic and dismissive arguments. Completely destroys them. Her book is a novel (its central plot revolves around a young woman's ability to time travel), certainly, but she so describes the world contained in the slave South that it reads like non-fiction. What feels different in her book, as opposed to other novels on the subject, is the psychological effects of slavery; Butler's Dina (the main character) experiences the physical abuse unique to slaves, particularly female slaves, in the antebellum South, but the most poignant passages are those wherein Dina speaks to the enslavement of her very mind. Trying to avoid another brutal whipping, Dina begins to obey the laws of the plantation, biding her time until she can run away. The strategy, however, wears on her mind and spirit, as she begins to feel like a collaborate to the system. Dina, a woman of the 1970's, sees with modern eyes the horrifying slave system, and most despairs as it begins to creep into her mind. It is when the shackles of slavery sneak into her mind that the insidiousness of the practice become most apparent and most denigrating.
Though classified a "science fiction" work, this book should truly be taught in history. Butler flawlessly imagines the repercussions of the U.S.'s slave system in a way that resonates with the modern reader. One not only develops sympathy for Dina, but a real sense of empathy for all those human souls that suffered and perished in the U.S.'s cruel and pernicious institution of human enslavement. ...more
So....several days after finishing this book, I'm still not quite sure what to make of it. Maybe that's the sign of a great work of literature, that iSo....several days after finishing this book, I'm still not quite sure what to make of it. Maybe that's the sign of a great work of literature, that it leaves you unsettled and unsure, but it also might be the sign of a work that doesn't quite translate into another era.
The book describes the travels of 3 white, upper-class Americans into various African towns and communities. I spent sometime online figuring out where some of these towns were, since most of them were not recognizable (the book also takes place just after WWII, which means many of the state names have since changed).
Early on, Port (which feels like such a hipster name to my modern reader's brain--which really might just be an apt classification for translating character type to modern day) hears a story about 3 sisters that went off on a quest to drink tea in the Sahara. These sisters predictably die (not a spoiler, it's a short story told in the second chapter), which lends the entire novel an ominous overtone.
I suppose I am glad that this book was not a rich-white-people travel to Africa to rediscover their true selves kind of book. Such books often seem to give whatever setting (Africa, Asia, South America...anywhere that might be read as "exotic" or "other") short change-- it is merely the backdrop for someone's transformation. Those books often read to me as flat, two-dimensional. This book did not follow that hackneyed plot line.
And yet...it still managed to treat the places and the people very decidedly as "other". I'm still not sure the extent to which that was simply a sign of times (and how most white writers would have simply seen the subject) or whether it was an intentional exploration of that "otherness" that pervades travel novels of the period.
One confused review posting later, I am still unsure of what to make of this book. But it certainly has left me thinking, for what that might be worth to others. ...more
This book....lots of feelings for it. It was difficult to get into it. The first few pages are heavy with explanation. And then come the racial slurs.This book....lots of feelings for it. It was difficult to get into it. The first few pages are heavy with explanation. And then come the racial slurs. This book was written in the early 1940s, by a Southern, about Southern lives a decade before. Perhaps it is no wonder, then, that the book includes such appalling terms, but it still is incredibly jarring to read. I think if I could have read this book without such casual use of these racial epithets, I would have enjoyed the book more, but I kept thinking about how I would feel if I were a person of color trying to read this book today, and I'm not really sure that I would.
In some ways, that is a shame, because in many ways the characters feel so applicable today. It is no coincidence that I read this book in an election year. I had started it twice before, but the opening description of driving down a steaming hot Southern highway in the days before air condition really did not quite hold my attention. The book did not grab me until we had a flashback to the narrator's, Jack's, first meeting with the Boss, Willie Stark--about 20-30 pages in.
I think what is particularly interesting to me in this book is the way in which the poorer, working class individuals in the book rallied around Willie Stark, a politician they saw as being their champion. And in many ways, Stark was--he paved roads, advocated building schools, and his ultimate project was building a huge hospital where people could get medical treatment for free. It was the political game that lead to the plot twists here--the people were always in Willie's corner. As I listen to the rhetoric this election season, more than half a century later, I'm struck by the ways in which many politicians are exploiting this working class that turned out in their support of the fictional Willie Stark. This very class of people, the poorer, working class individuals remain the big players in this group--it looks like one unlikely Republican candidate will ride this support to his party's nomination. I think many would argue, correctly, though that this support has channeled itself in opposition to their own economic self-interest. Instead of promises of classrooms and a hospital dispensing free medical care, this candidate promises a wall and to turn the clock back to a period of the U.S.'s great era of manufacturing. The difference--pun not really intended--is Stark. ...more
"In the end a Red pedagogy embraces an educative process that works to reenchant the universe, to reconnect peoples to the land, and is as much about"In the end a Red pedagogy embraces an educative process that works to reenchant the universe, to reconnect peoples to the land, and is as much about belief and acquiescence as it is about questioning and empowerment. ...The invitation is for scholars, educators and students to exercise critical consciousness at the same time they recognize that the world of knowledge far exceeds our ability to know" (p. 176)
I would have liked to give this book 4.5 stars if I could have (note to Goodreads: consider allowing users to rate with half-stars). Grande's detailed and comprehensive breakdown of Indigenous thought, as it applies both within and without the classroom, was phenomenally enlightening and truly led me to question my own assumptions and ways of processing the world as a white female whose entire educational career has been ensconced in the norms and values of a Western educational system. For this enlightenment and personally unexplored avenues of reflection, I am truly grateful.
Although not quite the correct word, for lack of a better term, the "problem" with this book is its incredible density. It took me 5 months to read these 176 pages. Now, this certainly is partially a reflection on my own limitations in thinking and reading. Grande is brilliant, and it takes hard work for me to keep up with her thoughts and to decipher meaning. The book is academic in its most pure conception--this is not a book for the casual reader. This is a book to read with (at least if you are me) with a Google window already pulled up and waiting; every few pages I had to look up a term, not because I did not have an idea of its meaning, but rather because I needed to understand the nuances and history of the term to fully comprehend Grande's meanings. This certainly makes for a rich learning experience, but it also limits the potential audience.
Academia has become so isolated from the 'real world' they purports to study and analyze. The academy sits firmly ensconced in its ivory tower and its products are rarely written or tailored for consumption by anyone outside of its walls. This is one criticism I have with academics in general. I hesitate to use the 'problem' term here, however, because I think, for academics of color, perhaps especially female academics of color, there are different nuances to the use of academic language within publications. Perhaps there is less leeway for academics of color to speak and write outside of the typical academic-speak because of the assumptions made about people that speak more informally. I am not sure if writing a scholarly work in everyday speech potentially opens a person of color up to criticism or dismissal in a way that a white individual does not have to consider.
Regardless of these reflections on the academic language of Red Pedagogy, or perhaps enhanced by these lines of thought, I found Grande's book to be a brilliant read. As I have over the past several months, I know I will continue to turn Grande's words and ideas over in my mind, challenging my own conceptions of the world and how I represent and question that world, both inside my own mind and inside the classroom. ...more
This book was not what I thought it would be. From the back cover's description, at times I was expecting more of a plot and at times I was expectingThis book was not what I thought it would be. From the back cover's description, at times I was expecting more of a plot and at times I was expecting less of a plot. I am still not sure how it's possible for one book to do that. Regardless, it is not the traditional markers of a novel--characters or plot or setting--that make this such a marvelous read. Rather, the book contains some of the most interesting observations of life and love that I have read in quite a while. At times funny, at times poignantly sad, the book is always authentic, striking at the very heart (pun intended) of love lived out. ...more
The impetus for finishing this book stemmed mostly from my desire to see how Elena and Lila's stories ended. The book itself was a bit difficult to geThe impetus for finishing this book stemmed mostly from my desire to see how Elena and Lila's stories ended. The book itself was a bit difficult to get through, as it seemed like the adulthood years were all iterations of the same behavior that landed the characters in chaos or conflict. Perhaps this is what life in adulthood is really like-- we tend to spend our days repeating the same cycles of conflict and resolution with little learning or growth--but in a novel of this length it becomes tiring. If the book were not the ending to the series, I would probably never have finished it. While I'm glad to have AN ending to the lives of Elena and Lila, this book ultimately felt like a let-down after the writing and engagement of the first and second books of the series. ...more
As the friends Elena and Lila grow up, their lives and actions get more and more complex. This book describing the two women's adulthood loses some ofAs the friends Elena and Lila grow up, their lives and actions get more and more complex. This book describing the two women's adulthood loses some of the earlier books' charm, as the books navigate those inevitable moments when adults can become unlikeable, spiteful, and even hurtful. The story remains compelling, however, and I continue the series as avidly as ever. ...more
The second book in the Neapolitan series--I'm pretty much devouring the entire series. The books follow the lives of two girls, Lila and Elena, from cThe second book in the Neapolitan series--I'm pretty much devouring the entire series. The books follow the lives of two girls, Lila and Elena, from childhood to adulthood. This second book tells the story of Lila & Elena in their teenage years and early twenties. The story is so compelling, the books insanely readable, and the lives' of the two women at turns celebratory and sad. Such great reads for anyone wanting a great piece of fiction. ...more
This is a painful book. Literally, the pages are filled with scenes and descriptions of pain. Individuals not only fight for survival, and cruelty isThis is a painful book. Literally, the pages are filled with scenes and descriptions of pain. Individuals not only fight for survival, and cruelty is one way of asserting superiority in the book's hierarchical world. Certainly humanity has inflected such cruelty and torture (there's n0 other word for it) on others and outsiders throughout history (much of the book reminded me of the U.S.'s recent debates on what constitutes torture and a reckoning with what we have done abroad) but intellectually knowing this fact and reading detailed descriptions of the torture are different things. To read this book is to feel the visceral reaction in the pit of the stomach as you slog through the action and see just how terrible one human can be to another--it is difficult to get through. There is no peace within the pages, no moments of real kindness or a character to latch onto. There is simply warfare, and the understanding that the true barbarians are not without but rather within the gates already. ...more