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Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
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Kindred (edition 2003)

by Octavia E. Butler (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,1912811,232 (4.2)624
Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned across the years to save him. After this first summons, Dana is drawn back, again and again, to the plantation to protect Rufus and ensure that he will grow to manhood and father the daughter who will become Dana's ancestor. Yet each time Dana's sojourns become longer and more dangerous, until it is uncertain whether or not her life will end, long before it has even begun.… (more)
Member:dgk53
Title:Kindred
Authors:Octavia E. Butler (Author)
Info:Beacon Press (2004), 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

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1970s (29)
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» See also 624 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 278 (next | show all)
When I first came across this book, I thought that it was going to be a rather bland and heavy-handed fish-out-of-water story about a modern woman forced to experience life as a slave. Well, I was very pleasantly surprised to have been wrong about that. Yes, there's quite a bit of the fish-out-of-water part to it (but really - that's the appeal of most time travel stories, right?), and there's definitely a Message and Learning Experience here, but I would argue that it's not heavy-handed. The characters are well-drawn, with multiple layers, with the possible exception of the narrator herself and her husband (or at least - they get the least amount of definition). The slaves are not painted as all one mind - some are accepting of their situation (with varying degrees of reluctance), while others are much more rankled by the reality and frustration of being a slave. The slaves were compassionate and understanding, as well as conniving and back-stabbing; in short, they were fully realized, deep people, and not just perfect subjugated angels without flaws. Likewise, the white people were also portrayed in a realistic manner - some were brutal, harsh people, but most were some combination of brutal and kind, condescending and compassionate, mean and fair. Honestly, none of the main characters (white OR black) really come off as unbelievably GOOD or BAD. In the end, I was just so glad that I was not around during that time period, and it's given me a deeper appreciation for the horrible lives that these people lived. So in that way, this has been a very profound book for me.
Now, the time travel aspect was handled very well, I thought - a little light on details and explanations, but that was alright, as the focus on the book was not really the ramifications of the time travel as much as it was on building a view into life in the early 1800's.
The only part of the book that I thought was lacking was an explanation for Dana's amputation - I don't get at all why that was even a necessary part of the story, let alone the mechanics of it, since it differed so much from her other travels through time.
Audiobook notes - the narrator did a fantastic job handling the various voices.


( )
  KrakenTamer | Oct 23, 2021 |
What a fantastic book! I'm not usually interested in fantasy or science fiction, but this novel was so gripping. It used fantasy and this unknown, time travel, to tell a story about generational trauma which is so smart Butler is an incredible writer. Also, the more I learn about her, the more I love who she is and honestly I would love to read another one of her books. From what I've read, she writes a lot about gender through this science fiction gaze and I am in love with that idea. I recommend this book to anyone. It's quick, amazingly written, and so very important. ( )
  AldaLyons | Oct 14, 2021 |
this is a really compelling read; i never really wanted to put it down. i was often wanting more or something different (it was really odd to me the things that were left out; things i thought she'd be thinking or wondering about, things she would be trying to do both in the present time and in the past) but i was never wanting to stop reading or even to put the book down. and those things that i wanted more depth to, they weren't the things she wanted the reader to focus on. we were to focus, like dana had to, on the survival each person had to fight for, the choices they made to try to ensure the best survival they could in the circumstances that were particular to their situation on a plantation and in relationship with the white slaveholders.

the choices butler made were so interesting in regards to dana's relationship with just about everyone in the book, but especially with rufus. i kept being surprised that dana seemed to actually care for him, that she wasn't just trying to save him or keep him around for the sake of her lineage or to keep the slaves from being sold off by his mother or his estate. she didn't react with much negative emotion when rufus first raped alice. she should have consistently hated him after that and alice should have expected her to as well. even the conversations with kevin were often odd to me. but thematically, this is wonderful (and awful) and really puts you in the mind of what it must be like to be a slave day-to-day, the concessions that you have to make for your survival, and how those are often interpreted by your fellow slaves (who should know better), and the constant fear of punishment that they lived under. i even got a better understanding of what a whipping would actually feel like; somehow that was never something i'd given too much in-depth thought to. (and while it's not something i wanted to know, i do think it's important to think about.) it seemed like the weylin plantation was probably sort of middle of the road in severity for the slaves and i think she did that on purpose, too, although at first i was surprised that she gave the white slaveholders any humanity at all. but this is more complicated and realistic.

it wasn't what i expected or maybe even what i wanted, but it's really a compelling book with so much to think about. i liked just about everything about her parable of the sower and parable of the talents better, but i still really liked this and it's very much worth reading. i can't believe it took me this long to get to it. ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Sep 14, 2021 |
On her 26th birthday, Dana Franklin finds herself in a place she does not understand. She did not learn where she was at the time - she saved a boy and then found herself in her own living room. It all looks like a nightmare until it happens again and she finally realizes where (and when) she is - a plantation in Maryland in the 1810s. Which is the worst place she could be - Dana is black.

Time travel is one of the staples of Science Fiction - most of the major authors had tried their hand at it. Butler tackled the topic early in her career and put her own spin on it - not only she sends a black woman to the slave-owning South of the early 19th century, she also changes the rules of how time travel works. Dana did not end up there because of an experiment - she just got pulled into the past by something. And any time when her life is in danger, she goes back to 1976 just to be pulled back into the past. Time passes differently in the two eras with no real relation - days and minutes in 1976 seem to cover years in the past although the relationship is not exact.

Before long, Dana and her husband Kevin realize what is pulling her back (if not how) - a boy, and then a man, who is prone to incidents and who appears to be one of Dana's ancestors, Rufus, is always in danger and Dana is always there to save him. The boy is white (which causes some distress - she had no idea he was white even if she always had known his name) and his family owns slaves. If it was not tragic, these first meetings of the 1976 black woman and the boy who owns slaves would have been hilarious.

And so the story goes - Kevin gets stuck in the past by not being close enough to Dana once (although as he is white, his life is not as bad as it would have been... even if it is not easy either), Dana gets pulled at all kinds of weird situations and when she least expects, Rufus manages to grow up despite his attempts not to. And every time she goes back she needs to forget who she is and become someone else in order to survive.

The novel explores slavery in a way that I had not seen before. Butler does not even attempt to make Dana submissive - she may submit but it is because she needs to survive so she can go back to Kevin. It is Dana's story so she narrates the story - and that means that we only get what she sees and learns. Early in the novel Dana sees how slaves are made - by making them scared about their lives and about their families; by removing all but one thread from their lives - sell all children but one - so they have a reason to behave. Dana decides to live - despite being whipped, despite all that happens to her - so she finds a way to submit.

But even though she tells us often enough that this is a different world, she seems to still expect Rufus to change and do things the way 1976 men would behave and keep getting disappointed. On one hand, that's the everlasting hope but on the other, by the later years, she should know better - slavery did not survive for as long without the help of the slave-owners who really believed that are not doing anything wrong.

Butler's story is linear except for a few flashbacks where we see Dana and Kevin meeting and falling in love and the very first chapter. For some reason, it seems popular for books to pull a later chapter and start a novel with it. In some cases it works well - here I think it was a mistake. It told us that Dana survives long enough to lose a hand and that Kevin is there with her in the current timeline when that happens. Which takes a lot from the novel's dynamics - you know that no matter what happens, as long as we do not see this incident, she will be fine and Kevin won't be lost forever. On the other hand it allows a reader to concentrate on what is actually happening and not worry about Dana being shot (or worse). And yet - if anyone asks, I will recommend to leave this first chapter alone and read it just before the epilogue.

That's not the first Black depiction of slavery I had read but the contrast between the racism of the 70s (both families are really not that happy about the marriage) and the casual racism of the 1820s and 1830s is scary. Slavery may be gone but its influence is still with us (and even Dana's job is not slavery per se, you can draw a lot of parallels there as well). Add the rest of the characters - both slaves and slave owners and just as with Dana, the 19th century feels more like home and reality than 1976. One wonders if that was part of the intention - to show that we are not as far removed as one would have thought.

The novel is 40+ years old but for all intents and purposes it can be set today. Society may be better in masking some issues but not much had changed. And it can serve as a cautionary tale - people grow up learning their worldview and they rarely change - no matter how many times you save their life (for example).

Highly recommended - even if you do not like time travel and science fiction - under all of it is a historical novel which needs to be read. And if you ever believed Scarlet to be an independent woman, you really need to meet Dana. ( )
2 vote AnnieMod | Aug 25, 2021 |
Definitely had me turning pages. Quite an interesting little glimpse of 1970s blue collar temp working as well as the central story in antebellum Maryland. I am still thinking about the bond between Dana (pronounced with a short 'a' I decided) and Rufus - it is so odd and conflicted and increasingly painful. ( )
  Je9 | Aug 10, 2021 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Octavia E. Butlerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Crossley, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adébáyò, AyòbámiForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gyan, DeborahCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leon, JanaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nuenning, MirjamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Otoo, Sharon DoduaForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ross, RachelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rummel, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schwinger, LaurenceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Staunton, KimNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned across the years to save him. After this first summons, Dana is drawn back, again and again, to the plantation to protect Rufus and ensure that he will grow to manhood and father the daughter who will become Dana's ancestor. Yet each time Dana's sojourns become longer and more dangerous, until it is uncertain whether or not her life will end, long before it has even begun.

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A young African-American woman is mysteriously transferred back in time leading to an irresistible curiosity about her family's past.
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Beacon Press

2 editions of this book were published by Beacon Press.

Editions: 0807083690, 0807083100

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An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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