Holly's Reviews > Kindred

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
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Sep 27, 2011

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Read in September, 2011

Written in 1979, Kindred is science fiction meets historical fiction. African American Edana (Dana) turns 26 in the year 1976 and is transported back to slave-holding 1824 to save the life of a white man, Rufus Weylin. This happens several times as Rufus grows up; Dana determines that Rufus is her white ancestor (who, incidentally, rapes her great-grandmother) and that her existence is tied to his survival. Rufus's fear transports her to his time, and her fear transports her back to 1976.

This is powerful science fiction; the reader never really questions whether Dana indeed travels back in time b/c her experiences there are horrifyingly real. (I did wonder whether a subtext of the novel could be that Dana's white husband is actually abusive as those in the 21st century assume; Dana escapes mentally into her past to try to understand it subconsciously - she knows via reading slave narrative writings much of what she sees in the past...).

Why science fiction and time travel? Feminist themes and science fiction allow the writer to juxtapose what-was with what-could-have-been with what-is-now that creates interesting parallels. We now know that 1976 wasn't exactly a time of equality for women or blacks; King's "I Have a Dream" speech was given in 1963, his assassination in 1968; in '76 women were only then being allowed to attend the US Naval Academy; riots occur in Soweto, South Africa.

Themes include insubordination and its price, the ultimate adaptability of the human spirit, equality and its cost to women and minorities.

My only complaint was the overall coldness of the story. The writing is beautifully simple; maybe this contributes to the clinical feel of the novel as a whole.
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