When I saw this on a swap shelf, I couldn't resist taking it (even though the ex-library paperback was in really poor condition with dark stains, wate...moreWhen I saw this on a swap shelf, I couldn't resist taking it (even though the ex-library paperback was in really poor condition with dark stains, water damage, and loose pages).
While race is a common theme in science-fiction, Kindred's approach is historical rather than futuristic. Even the novel's "contemporary" world (it was published in 1979) feels otherworldly with electric pencil sharpeners and sought-after typewriters.
I'm actually surprised that Butler hasn't been more embraced as in African-American literature classes and the academic canon- maybe if Butler's primary label of science-fiction had been something like magical realism this book would have been more widely read and taught. It's a shame that Toni Morrison books are so overused when gems like Kindred exist.
When Dana finds herself drawn back into slaveholding Missouri of the early 1800s to save a white ancestor, she finds herself in a truly alien environment. How does an black woman of the late 20th century survive in a world where she holds no personal rights and knows almost nothing about daily living?
The book is illuminating about the history of slavery in America, but it also opens conversations about contemporary society trying to understand a past that is more alien than we like to remember.
This book's sadness is countered by many of the characters' remarkable strength, courage, and resourcefulness.
Kindred is a must for anyone who has read Toni Morrison. Octavia Butler takes similar historic circumstances but illuminates them in a way that is more personal and thought-provoking.(less)
Almost every summer a cool Canadian novel finds it way into my hands and heart. This year, Lawrence Hill offers the sleeper hit with his Someone Knows...moreAlmost every summer a cool Canadian novel finds it way into my hands and heart. This year, Lawrence Hill offers the sleeper hit with his Someone Knows My Name.
This epic novel follows the (fictional) autobiography of an enslaved African girl through her journey to American, work on an indigo plantation, career as an (enslaved) midwife, emancipation by the British military and her British owner, flight to Canada, return to Africa, and work in Britain for abolitionist groups.
The narrator is lively and determined and her incredible energy carried me through the book's sprawling history and geography.(less)
When I sought out The Whirlpool, I was unable to find a US edition. That made me uneasy, so I shelved the book for years until a night of insomnia left me roaming the bookshelf for distraction.
The Whirlpool is definitely a first novel. Despite its relatively short length the book seems much longer than its fatter siblings (The Underpainter 368pp., Away 368 pp., The Stone Carvers 400pp.). The ending's eventual arrival came as a relief from tedious detail and an assumption that the readers be deeply invested in the poetry of Robert Browning.
If you're new to Jane Urquhart's writing, please don't judge her solely on this first work. The Underpainter is a much better introduction to her complex and deeply geographic fiction.(less)
Some of the best times I've had this month were prowling the rancid sewers Victorian London with a tosher (sewer scavenger) and a civil engineer.
For years, this unread novel has been mistakenly shelved with our non-fiction books. And while non-fiction on the development of modern sewers intrigues me (in theory) it doesn't leap off the bookshelf demanding attention.
This unusually olfactory novel, kept me spellbound.
**spoiler alert** When a friend pressed this book into my hands, I felt a pang of guilt. She liked the book so much, and, as a reader with ample criti...more**spoiler alert** When a friend pressed this book into my hands, I felt a pang of guilt. She liked the book so much, and, as a reader with ample criticism, that made me nervous.
The paperback floated about the living room for weeks, and my friend periodically inquired about how I was enjoying it. After a disappointing re-encounter with Cheaper by the Dozen, I grabbed the closest the book to the armchair and ended up on an adventurous journey with one of my favorite female protagonists in recent years.
In 1855 Illinois, young Lidie, family pariah, finds herself orphaned as an adult dependent and subject to the limited mercies of her older half-sisters. Lidie's life-long campaign to resist the normal usefulness of women have made her an imposition to house. She neither reaps nor sews. With some intentionality she botches most household tasks or performs them at a trying pace.
As a result her sisters conspire to marry her off to the first suitor they can find... even if he is a d---ed abolitionist from New England heading to Kansas.
Thomas Newton, Lidie's impromptu husband, bolstered by stories from Lidie's teen nephew, admires Lidie's ability to shoot and ride horses. He revels in her courage, strength, and ability to swim across the wide river and sees in her a potential helpmate for the arduous life awaiting him on the Kansas frontier.
Newly married, the young idealist from New England and his bride board a steamboat for the West with little idea of what their near future will hold.
In a story of community, conflict, ideology, and action, author Jane Smiley, weaves a vivid portrait of the Kansas frontier and the incendiary political environment of the US Frontier on the cusp of the Civil War.
Throughout the novel, Smiley periodically touches upon facets of history I've previously read. She encapsulates interesting historical tidbits like the recruitment campaigns to draw people to new frontiers. Although much of this period is beyond my own historical reading what I could recognize was accurate and enhanced the story.
I found myself utterly transported and also surprisingly invested in the characters. When the story ended, I felt adrift without it.