Simone's Reviews > Kindred

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 2018, books-i-recommend, diverse-reads, fantasy, magical-realism

There were a few times where I wanted to put this book down and take a minute. I needed a second to breathe and remember to breathe. However, I couldn’t. I had to sit there and finish this story. I had to keep my knuckles clenched to concentrate my emotions into my tiny fists. I teared up at the cruelty of the universe and how an ordinary woman had an experience of a lifetime she never asked for, wanted, or really wanted to see to the end.

As a person of color, there are some parts of history where I don’t want to go. For example, I wish to never find myself in Korea during the Japanese occupation. I never want to be an immigrant during the 19th century building railroads and selling opium. There are things for me to fear in history and this is exactly what happens to Dana.

This book just dives right into it. The prologue gives you some inkling of what you’re about to read, but it doesn’t really settle in until you’re reading it. The first chapter immediately has her traveling through space and time to the early 19th century where she meets her great-great grandfather as a young white slaveowner’s son. Dana is called to him a few times throughout the story and it only happens when his lie is in danger.

In terms of time travel, there weren’t any devices or a need to travel. In fact, Dana was just unpacking books when she felt dizzy and woke up nowhere near her new home. She realizes that whenever Rufus’s life is in danger, she’s immediately called back and she always finds a way to save them. Her way back to the real world is when her own life is threatened and as her visits gets longer and longer, threats start to get dimmer and dimmer.

When I first read this, I was hoping and praying that Rufus (her great-great grandfather) was actually a nice guy. Perhaps the kind of person who saw past race and wanted to rebel against his father. However, I was completely wrong. Rufus’s behavior was the most shocking in this entire book even though it’s supposed to be the most predictable. I think as an optimistic reader, you’re hoping to find that Rufus has some change of heart. He’ll do “what’s right” and step up when he needed to. However, the book thwarts any of those feelings and at some point I gave up rooting for Rufus.

Each time Dana travels back, she stays longer and longer and trying to survive as a progressive Black woman in the 19th century is like wearing a giant A on your chest. The white people think she’s too smart and a threat while the Black people think she’s too white and a traitor to her race.

I can’t imagine finding myself there with everyone’s judgment around you. And then on top of that, she had to play the part of an obedient slave so that people wouldn’t be suspicious. She has to pretend to be submissive when she grew up in a time where Black people were constantly proving to people that they were just the same.

The story is written in the first person, so you’re reading this through Dana’s eyes. The first time she’s slapped across the face, the numerous betrayals she comes across, and the anger she feels for how little slaveowners cared about her slaves. The worst was that she had to endure it. She had to wait until her ancestor was born so that she didn’t step on the butterfly that unmakes her existence. She has to be her great-great grandmother’s confidant as she talked about how much she hated Rufus. She had to manage the stares and glares Rufus gave her for being who she is. I would have been traumatized.

There’s a lot of complexity in this book. She talks about the African diaspora. She talks about being a modern woman (the number of times someone asks her why she’s dressed like a boy is unreasonable. really? you’ve never seen a woman wear pants?). She talks about being an outcast, assimilating into culture, and sticking to your beliefs despite what others believe. She talks about survival in a society that’s unaccepting and I can relate to that so much it hurts.

But the main thing I wanted to mention is the complacency. After being in 1819 for a few months, Dana was feeling almost a Stockholm Syndrome response. “This isn’t soo bad,” is what they said because the slaves weren’t being beaten to the edge of their lives. Because they weren’t directly exposed to the rape. But when Dana finally sees that this is still very much the ante bellum South, it finally dawns on her that she needs to get the heck out of there despite the friendships and relationships she developed with the other slaves.

The last thing I want to bring up is the ending. The ending will trip you up. As she finally returns to normal and Kevin feels more acclimated back to 1976, there’s that small neg in the back of your mind that asks you constantly “did what we just experience actually happen? Did we really go back to the 19th century and witness slavery first hand?” It’s hard to forget, but you’ll never know for sure. That creeped me out the most.

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Reading Progress

November 13, 2018 – Started Reading
November 13, 2018 – Shelved
November 13, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
November 15, 2018 – Shelved as: 2018
November 15, 2018 – Shelved as: books-i-recommend
November 15, 2018 – Shelved as: diverse-reads
November 15, 2018 – Shelved as: fantasy
November 15, 2018 – Shelved as: magical-realism
November 15, 2018 – Finished Reading

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