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Kindred

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Author: Octavia E. Butler

Published: February 1st 2004 by Beacon Press (first published June 1979)

Format: Paperback , 287 pages

Isbn: 9780807083697

Language: English


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The first science fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity. Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into ante The first science fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity. Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life. During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given...

30 review for Kindred

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rick Riordan

    After reading Parable of the Sower, I had to go right out and buy Butler’s most famous novel Kindred. I was not disappointed. It is amazing that this book was written in 1976 and feels just as fresh and timely in 2016. Dana, a young African American woman who has just started a career as a writer in California, is suddenly and inexplicably yanked back in time to Maryland in 1815, where she must save a white boy named Rufus from drowning. This becomes only the first of many time traveling episodes After reading Parable of the Sower, I had to go right out and buy Butler’s most famous novel Kindred. I was not disappointed. It is amazing that this book was written in 1976 and feels just as fresh and timely in 2016. Dana, a young African American woman who has just started a career as a writer in California, is suddenly and inexplicably yanked back in time to Maryland in 1815, where she must save a white boy named Rufus from drowning. This becomes only the first of many time traveling episodes for Dana. She quickly realizes that Rufus is one of her own ancestors, mentioned in the family Bible. Somehow, they are connected across time because they are kindred. To assure her own future, Dana must keep Rufus alive until he has children who will some day be Dana’s family line. Unfortunately, Rufus gets in a lot of trouble. Only moments pass in the modern world each time Dana is called away, but months or even years pass in the world of 1815. Dana watches Rufus grow from a little boy into an adult slave owner who inherits his father’s plantation. She tries her best to influence Rufus’ development, but can she overcome the poisonous institution of slavery that infects everyone it touches? The novel is a potent metaphor for the modern African American experience and the American experience in general. We may be lulled into the feeling that we have advanced, that we have made progress as a society. But at any moment, we may be yanked back into the past and reminded of where we came from. That heritage of slavery, exploitation and racism is an integral part of our national identity, and it is never far below the surface. It can overcome us in an instant. Like Dana, we must be constantly on guard, well-equipped and ready to be yanked out of our supposedly modern and enlightened existence to deal with the ugliest parts of our nature. We are kindred with the Americans of 1815, whether we like it or not.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    “The ease. Us, the children… I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.” Butler is an author that constantly pops up on "Best sci-fi" and "Must-Read African American authors" lists and I can finally see why. This book may be my first by her, but it won't be my last. Kindred is a fascinating, horrific journey through a dark time in American history, combining eye-opening historical research with time travel. I suppose some modern readers will want to compare this sto “The ease. Us, the children… I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.” Butler is an author that constantly pops up on "Best sci-fi" and "Must-Read African American authors" lists and I can finally see why. This book may be my first by her, but it won't be my last. Kindred is a fascinating, horrific journey through a dark time in American history, combining eye-opening historical research with time travel. I suppose some modern readers will want to compare this story to Outlander and there are some similarities - a woman trying to survive in the past, lots of blood-soaked history and horror, the harsh realities of being who you are in that time - but not only did this book come first, but it is far more distressing, more tied in with historical truth, and way more about surviving than it is about lusty scenes with a kilted hot dude. It's a really important "what if" book about race. What if a modern black woman suddenly found herself transported 150+ years into the past, right into the centre of the antebellum South? The book doesn't shy away from portraying the realities of that (nothing is sugar-coated, be prepared for some upsetting scenes). But it's also more than a gruesome look at historical racism and violence. There are many complex and interesting characters - both slaves and slave owners. Butler has written a book that goes deeper than surface level, exploring how people come to accept slavery as the norm and to justify poor treatment of slaves. Dana is horrified how easy it is. And so was I. Kindred is so good because, not only is it well-written and emotionally effective, but it also manages to be several different important things: complex historical-fiction, intriguing science-fiction, and a memoir of slavery. For a novel so obviously fictional, it feels very real and true. Maybe because, sadly, most of it is. I know this is one book that will stay with me for a long time. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube | Store

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    Octavia Butler is an amazing writer. If you enjoy reading SF/F, or even an interest in speculative fiction, you would like her work. Kindred, first published in 1979, would become her most best-selling novel. This is also a painful book to read because of its graphic depiction of slavery and Butler wastes no time in demonizing what was demonic. Describing the slave life from the perspective of a time-travelling modern woman, Butler’s strong narrative prose is in high form for a low burden – to ill Octavia Butler is an amazing writer. If you enjoy reading SF/F, or even an interest in speculative fiction, you would like her work. Kindred, first published in 1979, would become her most best-selling novel. This is also a painful book to read because of its graphic depiction of slavery and Butler wastes no time in demonizing what was demonic. Describing the slave life from the perspective of a time-travelling modern woman, Butler’s strong narrative prose is in high form for a low burden – to illustrate to contemporary readers the horrors of slavery and in this context to draw a comparison with life of our time, making the transition to the early 1800s all the more stark and evil in contrast. Kindred is also an allegory for our modern times, still burdened by the wounds of slavery and a racial consciousness in our society that has scars that won’t heal. Butler shows us, though, that we as a nation and a people are bound, as kindred, between races and with a shared history. Back in the 90s I was working in Washington DC and I had the opportunity to meet a group of folks from Africa. Multi-lingual (with French predominant among the diplomats) I found the people I met worldly, intelligent, generous and interesting to talk to – and they were singularly not American. I think this was the first time I had met a large group of people from another continent and the idea struck me how much closer I was to my black neighbors than I was to these people I had just met. Butler adeptly reveals in Kindred, in multiple ways, the many degrees of our shared humanity. But more narrowly, Butler is pointing out our kinship as Americans, dates like 1976 and July 4th must be intentional, how the shared history of slavery – between black Americans and white Americans – has bound us together. Butler also, once again, has created a strong female protagonist in Dana whose endurance and courage are remarkable, made more evident by the fact that she has a unique viewpoint. Dana, in some respects, becomes a symbol of a present-day African-American woman, both made stronger from her heritage, but also still bearing the wounds of past wrongs. Kindred also displays Butler’s amazing talents in storytelling, using dramatic irony expertly. A reader may notice a subtle, though strangely twisted reference to a scene in Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Introspective and somber, with many questions that remain unanswered, Kindred is a powerful work told by an artist of genius ability.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Adina

    DNF at 50% (with some skipping) What came first, the egg or the chicken? What came first, the badly written book or the reading slump? Hard questions to answer but one thing is certain. It definitely did not help forcing me to reach 50% of this book. I only did it because of my rating rule and because I wanted to bitch about it. So here it is again the time for an unpopular opinion. I though this book to be TERRIBLE. I don’t even know with what to start. I understand it is written by a woman of DNF at 50% (with some skipping) What came first, the egg or the chicken? What came first, the badly written book or the reading slump? Hard questions to answer but one thing is certain. It definitely did not help forcing me to reach 50% of this book. I only did it because of my rating rule and because I wanted to bitch about it. So here it is again the time for an unpopular opinion. I though this book to be TERRIBLE. I don’t even know with what to start. I understand it is written by a woman of color in a time when it was an extraordinary accomplishment. I get and admire that. I also get that she had an agenda to prove how easily one can accept slavery, even in our modern world. However, the above is not a relevant excuse for bad writing, cartoonish characters, poorly conceived plot and ridiculous dialogue. Also, the use of time travel had nothing to do with SF, there was no explanation of the phenomenon, and it felt only as a lazy gimmick to prove her point. Yes, others used it as well but better, in my opinion. Let’s start with the plot. We are in 1976 America, a young black woman is married with a white man and she suddenly starts to repeatedly go back in time in the antebellum South so she can save a child (and later young man) who proves to be her ancestor. It quickly becomes obvious that she has to save him every time he is in trouble, otherwise she would not exist in the present time. So far so good, the premise sounds interesting. Too bad the execution was poor. Firstly, the two pair accepted way to easy the time travelling part. The same happened with the people in the past. You tell me that a person in the 19th century would not freak out and try to murder any source of such an abomination? The dialogues between the husband and wife after the first two times she comes back are laughable. At first he doesn’t believe her although she disappeared and then he doesn’t understand why she is scared. Really? I would lose control of myself it that happened, screaming my ass into a mental hospital. Later, when they both land in the past, I could not believe how easily they get used to the roles they had to play there, her as a slave and him as the white master. I totally understand that she had to lay low in order to survive but that doesn’t mean she had to be acceptant in her mind or find excuses for that little piece of shit, Rufus. And to convinced Alice that is ok to be raped so you can survive…. Nope. I disliked all the characters, especially Dana and her detachment; the author did not make me feel anything except annoyance. I know I am in minority here but it can’t be helped, I can’t find many positive thoughts about this novel.

  5. 5 out of 5

    M—

    On October 5, 2004, Octavia E. Butler visited my graduate university to give a lecture and book signing. I was really impressed by her. She actually spent several hours at the university, giving a public interview with one of the professors, then a short lecture to a large auditorium, then a book signing. I even skipped class in order to attend. The interview was really fascinating, where Butler answered questions about how she worked to write Kindred and how she felt about the characters and ho On October 5, 2004, Octavia E. Butler visited my graduate university to give a lecture and book signing. I was really impressed by her. She actually spent several hours at the university, giving a public interview with one of the professors, then a short lecture to a large auditorium, then a book signing. I even skipped class in order to attend. The interview was really fascinating, where Butler answered questions about how she worked to write Kindred and how she felt about the characters and how the result all turned out. The professor kind of threw Butler for a loop once, when she pulled an interpretation of the book out of left field, and Butler blinked, and slowly said she didn't write with that interpretation at all in mind, but that she was of the opinion that any interpretation the reader reaches is a valid one. I thought she handled the question particularly well. In the lecture, Butler talked mostly about how she writes, her writing style, her relationship with her fans, and the book she was currently writing, Fledgling. The signing afterwards was very informal, but I didn’t try to stay and chat. Butler had lots of professors and awestruck students who were all trying to catch her attention. I got my book signed, said a polite thank you, and left happy. Fledgling turned out to be the last book Butler wrote. She died unexpectedly in early 2006. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the chance to meet her. The book: Was good. A time-traveling story dealing with love, gender, race, racism, and responsibility. It was beautifully and rather painfully done. I never would have found it if it hadn’t been for the author visit, and I’m rather sad about that.

  6. 4 out of 5

    carol.

    Octavia Butler amazes me. She writes science fiction that is full of complicated ideas about race and sexuality that are completely readable. I’ll innocently start reading, thinking only to get a solid start on the book, and suddenly discover I’m halfway through the story. That isn’t to imply she’s a light-weight, however; her works are emotionally and ethically dense, the subject of numerous high school and college essays. A recent read of Dawn inspired a number of recommendations for Butler an Octavia Butler amazes me. She writes science fiction that is full of complicated ideas about race and sexuality that are completely readable. I’ll innocently start reading, thinking only to get a solid start on the book, and suddenly discover I’m halfway through the story. That isn’t to imply she’s a light-weight, however; her works are emotionally and ethically dense, the subject of numerous high school and college essays. A recent read of Dawn inspired a number of recommendations for Butler and a buddy read of her book Kindred. ************* Full reviews at my blog: http://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2014/0... Why? Because 1) gramazon can't have my reviews, 2) because I don't feel like being censored according to some twit's whims.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cecily

    “I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.” I wanted to love this book. I knew the slave narrative might be harrowing (though it’s not overly graphic), but it has an average GR rating over four stars, features time-travel dilemmas, has a strong, intelligent, kind, and practical female protagonist, and gives thought-provoking insights into the complexity of US race relations in the 1800s and, to a lesser extent, the 1970s. It is a good and powerful, exciting and educ “I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.” I wanted to love this book. I knew the slave narrative might be harrowing (though it’s not overly graphic), but it has an average GR rating over four stars, features time-travel dilemmas, has a strong, intelligent, kind, and practical female protagonist, and gives thought-provoking insights into the complexity of US race relations in the 1800s and, to a lesser extent, the 1970s. It is a good and powerful, exciting and educational book. But something didn’t quite connect for me. I hoped that composing my thoughts would make me see it in a more favourable light - and it has. Perhaps I just read it too fast to digest it properly. Kindred One word, seven letters, but several interpretations, all with emotional impact. * The most common and literal meaning relates to ties of blood: our immediate family. The kindred we can’t choose, even if we hate or despise them. * But blood is too narrow to include one’s partner, or any adopted children, honorary uncles and aunts, or step parents. And what about children born to slave women who could never claim their father/owner’s family as kindred, even if they wanted to? * So it widens to “kindred spirits” - our closest friends and allies, with whom we share attitudes, experiences, and interests. Regardless of biological parentage, a slave child’s kindred can only be fellow slaves. * Ultimately, Butler’s message is that black and white (and brown and pink and yellow), male and female (and everything else), we are all kindred. One race: the human race. Race as a social construct. (See Live Science and Bill Nye.) This is not a Christian book, and I am not a Christian person, but I was reminded of the message of Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan. The man who asked “Who is my neighbour?” was shown that the answer was everyone in need. That’s a tough message to apply, but given the turmoil in the word right now, it is as important as it ever was. Plot - No Spoilers The book is easy to summarise in a way that gives no more spoilers than the first three pages and back cover. Dana is a 26-year old middle class African-American living in 1976 LA with her white husband, Kevin. Somehow, she comes unstuck in time (like Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five and Henry in The Time Traveller’s Wife) and suddenly finds herself on a plantation in Maryland in 1815. This happens several times, over twenty years of 19th century time, with the usual issues and dilemmas of time travel, but that is just the mechanism for depicting the horrors of slavery, and the complex power and sexual relationships that result, as well as exploring the source of hatred (nature versus nurture), acquiescence, revenge, and the types and possibility of redemption and freedom. Kindred is more historical and political adventure than sci-fi. It’s fast-paced and, despite the subject, quite an easy read. And the ending is satisfying, but not ludicrously sentimental or tidy. Owning and Being Owned In 1976, Dana is proud of her independence, having repeatedly fought to do what she wanted, rather than settle for what was expected. In the 19th century, she has to consider the terrifying risks and consequences of striving for even a tiny bit of independence. The power-play between master and slave can acquire aspects of Stockholm Syndrome. Although the story is told by Dana and she is the central character, at least as important is Rufus Weyland, son of the plantation owner. The way his attitude and behaviour change as he grows up is echoed in the more recent The Help, though it is more complex here. As a small child, he’s allowed to have slave children as friends, even as his father buys and sells their families, beats and sleeps with them. Gradually, Rufus develops an unrequited “destructive single-minded love” for two women that I never fully understood. With one woman, it’s sexual, so he repeatedly rapes her. “There was no shame in raping a black woman, but there could be shame in loving one.” Of course, Rufus doesn’t think of it as rape because she doesn’t try to stop him and, more importantly, he owns her. So the woman endures, but “She forgave him nothing, forgot nothing.” Dana sees how manipulative Rufus is, she experiences it herself. She sees the bad in him and occasionally slivers of good. She tries to enlighten him, but is remarkably forgiving when he follows in his father’s footsteps. More so than I could be, which is perhaps another reason why it didn’t quite ring true for me. He’s of his Time. Does that make it OK? “He wasn’t a monster at all. Just an ordinary man who sometimes did the monstrous things his society said were legal and proper.” A common debate on GR and in the wider world (yes, there is one, I’m led to believe), is to what extent we judge those in the past by the standards of our time. * Should we cast aside books by people who we now know had hateful views and who maybe did hateful deeds? * Should books about the past be sanitised and redacted to make them acceptable to modern sensibilities? Dana is confronted by this dilemma in a more direct and personal way. She wants to teach Rufus to think of and treat his slaves kindly, but as his views become darker and more complicated, her opinion of him is ever more conflicted - exacerbated by the power he has over her. * How much of what happens can be blamed on the surrounding cultural norms? * Does a slave owner who beats relatively rarely and gently deserve leniency? Identity: Colour, Gender, Social Rank, Ancestry Who is Dana, and how free is she? In both periods she can be seen as, and is sometimes called, “a white nigger”. In 1815, she is assumed to be a slave just because of her colour, all the more inferior because she's female. But the fact she talks white and educated causes confusion, resentment, and conflict. And she comes to realise that even in 1976, she is not entirely free of her heritage, despite her relative detachment from it (though she has read at least some of her ten books about black history even before she has a specific need to do so). There are similar questions for many other characters, especially slaves who consider running away in the hope of freedom (or death), those who stay because they want to keep their children, and those who trade privilege and suffering (such as sleeping with a boss they hate to have slightly gentler conditions). I could write a whole review about her husband, Kevin: how he - and their marriage - is changed by her experiences, and his. But I won't this time; it's interesting and important, but secondary. The other huge aspect is ancestry, and how that defines one's identity, both in terms of racial identity, but also in terms of character. What if you are appalled by who and what your forebears do are and do? (An issue those who research their family trees often have to face.) Words and Language This is a book you read for the ideas and story, rather than the language. But Butler makes her words work in a book that’s barely 300 pages: a single word title, and short, elemental chapter titles: The River, The Fire, The Fall, The Fight, The Storm, The Rope. Of course, “the N word” is used frequently. Given the setting, it would be bizarre if it were not. Human Pantone The image at the top is from this short blog post about race: http://www.laurassoapbox.net/2012/08/... But it is actually part of Angélica Daas’ “Human Pantone” art project, which I saw on posters in Bilbao earlier this year: http://brazigzag.com/culture/angelica...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Apatt

    I had no idea what Kindred is about prior to reading it, I previously read Octavia Butler's Wild Seed and thought it was marvelous, and Kindred seems to be her most popular work judging by Goodreads ratings. So buying a copy of Kindred without knowing anything about it was a no-brainer. I even deliberately avoided looking at the book's synopsis before hand, I just wanted to get to know the book as I read on. I hoped for a pleasant surprise, which I did get. This is only the second Octavia Butler I had no idea what Kindred is about prior to reading it, I previously read Octavia Butler's Wild Seed and thought it was marvelous, and Kindred seems to be her most popular work judging by Goodreads ratings. So buying a copy of Kindred without knowing anything about it was a no-brainer. I even deliberately avoided looking at the book's synopsis before hand, I just wanted to get to know the book as I read on. I hoped for a pleasant surprise, which I did get. This is only the second Octavia Butler book I have read and I already worship her. Kindred is about Dana, an African American woman who finds herself time travelling involuntarily to Maryland in the early nineteenth century. It is not explained how or why this happen to her, the mechanic of it is entirely irrelevant to the story. The novel is about her experience of slavery in the past. Her fate becomes intertwined with Rufus, a white ancestor who is the only son of a plantation owner and who somehow triggers her time traveling trips every time he is in mortal danger, a situation that arises more frequently to him than to most people. While there she experiences the woes of slavery first hand, including whipping, beating, degradation and humiliation. This is a harrowing and emotional read, I almost cry manly tears during some of the chapters. I never pondered what it may have been like to be a slave, it is not exactly a contingency which is at all likely to ever arise. However, Ms Butler - genius that she was - made me feel it through the eyes of her protagonist. The pains and humiliation of slavery resonates with me even though there ought to be nothing to resonate. I kind of winced every time a stroke of a whip is described. This is not a comfortable read but highly engrossing and thought provoking. The book is very much character-centric, the relationship between Dana and Rufus is very complex and fascinating. Dana's husband Kevin who also become embroiled in time traveling and is marooned in the nineteenth century for years without his wife adds to her complications, his reaction to returning to the present time (1976) is entirely believable and again resonates strongly. The book reminds me a little of Connie Willis's excellent Doomsday Book, which is about time travelling to the fourteenth century and also a harrowing (yet wonderful) read, though the emphasis of that book is on poverty, hardship and diseases rather than slavery. The involuntary time traveling aspect of the book reminds me of Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife, though Kindred predates it, and Kindred is certainly not a romantic book. Octavia Butler was not one of those literary writers who try to avoid the science fiction label like the plague even while using sf tropes in their works, she has always loved sf and gladly embraced the genre (see photo below). That said, Kindred is also not science fiction. The author described it as a "grim fantasy" and deliberately did not put any science in it, it is described by some literary critics as a "neo-slave narrative". I did consider why the book was written as a fantasy (or almost sf) instead of historical fiction, then I realised that it was probably done so the modern reader can experience the nineteenth century Maryland through the protagonist's contemporary eyes, this makes the book very visceral. While the book was written to make the reader ponder some serious issues such as man's inhumanity to man, inequality and courage in an environment where you are made to feel worthless, at no point did I feel like being lectured to. The author knows the importance of communicating through the story, and I was completely swept away by it. Whatever I read next will likely suffer from being compared to this book. This goes in my all-time greats list. Notes: • From Tor.com: Octavia Butler Will Change the Way You Look at Genre Fiction. • HERE is another reason to love Octavia Butler. • Interesting background info from The Portalist: Kindred was inspired by the time a very young Butler spent with her mother at work. Butler told In Motion Magazine in 2004 that a lot of the motivation behind her novel Kindred "came when I was in preschool, when my mother used to take me to work with her." Kindred follows Dana, a writer who travels back in time to the antebellum South and meets her ancestors, a white plantation owner and a Black slave. The novel argues for the courageousness of people existing under unimaginable circumstances, as Dana makes compromises in order to survive slavery. Butler's own mother was a housemaid, and many of Butler's earliest memories were of the degradations her mother endured at work. She told In Motion that witnessing the racism her mother put up with in order to bring Butler a better life helped inspire much of Kindred's message: "I got to see her not hearing insults and going in back doors, and even though I was a little kid, I realized it was humiliating. I knew something was wrong, it was unpleasant, it was bad. I remember saying to her a little later, at seven or eight, "I'll never do what you do, what you do is terrible." And she just got this sad look on her face and didn't say anything. I think it was the look and the memory of the indignities she endured. I just remembered that and wanted to convey that people who underwent all this were not cowards, were not people who were just too pathetic to protect themselves, but were heroes because they were using what they had to help their kids get a little further." Excellent Kindred Infographic (with spoilers) click on image to see full size.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Justin Tate

    A unique look at slave-era America thanks to a time-traveling twist. Should be shelved with the classics. Riveting from the first page and doesn’t let up. I’m always a fan of throwing in a little sci-fi, but here it really, really works. Most novels on this subject tend to look at race relations from one time period. Nothing wrong with that, but there was something wholly shocking and eye-opening about having these characters hop from a modern (1970s) lens to pre-Civil War society. This is my firs A unique look at slave-era America thanks to a time-traveling twist. Should be shelved with the classics. Riveting from the first page and doesn’t let up. I’m always a fan of throwing in a little sci-fi, but here it really, really works. Most novels on this subject tend to look at race relations from one time period. Nothing wrong with that, but there was something wholly shocking and eye-opening about having these characters hop from a modern (1970s) lens to pre-Civil War society. This is my first Octavia E. Butler novel but I’m already a huge fan. Which of her books should I read next??

  10. 5 out of 5

    Maxwell

    This should be required reading in high school. I feel like if teachers used material like this, students would be a lot more engaged. It’s a fascinating blend of genres and such an interesting perspective with which she examines slavery. Very immersive and horrifying, but it really humanizes the past. Would highly recommend and am eager to read more from Butler’s backlist.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    I wish we could read more authors like Octavia Butler, bell hooks, and Celeste Ng in our English classes instead of white men like Ernest Hemingway. I loved Kindred because it uses the science-fiction/fantasy genre to expose the cruelties and horrors of slavery and racism in an innovative way. Similar to what author Viet Thanh Nguyen writes in his book Nothing Ever Dies , the United States's education system often informs us of issues like war and slavery through a sanitized, depoliticized le I wish we could read more authors like Octavia Butler, bell hooks, and Celeste Ng in our English classes instead of white men like Ernest Hemingway. I loved Kindred because it uses the science-fiction/fantasy genre to expose the cruelties and horrors of slavery and racism in an innovative way. Similar to what author Viet Thanh Nguyen writes in his book Nothing Ever Dies , the United States's education system often informs us of issues like war and slavery through a sanitized, depoliticized lens. Though we "learn" about these events, we do not recognize the cruelty and evil our country's past generations committed - and how we are also complicit if we do not act for justice today. Octavia Butler's Kindred tells a gripping tale and reminds us of how we must not let the stories of our past happen again. Kindred follows 26-year-old Dana, a black woman who lives in California and gets transported to the antebellum South. There, she meets Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner who will go on to sire the daughter who becomes Dana's ancestor. Dana is teleported back in time over and over again to protect Rufus from death, but each time she travels to the past, she encounters increasing amounts of danger and abuse that put her own life at risk for extinction. Butler creates a compelling cast of characters in Kindred. Dana, Kevin, Rufus, Alice, etc. all have complex motivations and their relationships with one another feel replete with nuanced power dynamics, as well as love and hate and fear. In addition to imbuing Kindred with a fast-moving and surprising plot, Butler succeeds at showing and not telling the atrocities of slavery through Dana's travels backward and forward in time, in particular her forced journey to acclimate to plantation life in the nineteenth century. Through detailing the pain Dana suffers and the pain she sees her fellow enslaved individuals suffer at the hands of white folk, Butler encourages us to consider the challenges of surviving in an unjust world, just like the one we live in now. Why is it that our ancestors, as well as a lot of us today, are so willing to look away from the evils of racism? How do we stay true to our values in a society that so often pits minorities against each other, gives power to those who disempowers others, etc.? Kindred makes us think about these questions without offering simple answers, providing proof of its thoughtfulness and strength as a novel. Overall, a book I would recommend to anyone and everyone. I honestly feel ashamed at my younger self for not reading authors like Butler sooner and for buying into problematic portrayals of slavery, like Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. I am doing my best to make up for it now by reading more books about social justice, by donating to the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations fighting the good fight, and by having conversations about these topics, volunteering, etc. As a companion to Kindred, I would recommend reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and giving to groups that fight mass incarceration, as that injustice serves in many ways as the slavery of our time. Thank you to Ms. Butler for creating art that allows us to see injustice and to fight it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘

    I remember the astonished fear I felt when I read Primo Levi in High-school and realized how easily one can go along with dehumanization in order to save his life. As much as we humans like hiding behind false truths, we're merely trying to go easy on ourselves and to maintain our breakable feeling of control. We don't control shit. From the moment I read Holocaust accounts, I've met a lot of people assuring me that these days wouldn't ever happen again because people would fight harder and long I remember the astonished fear I felt when I read Primo Levi in High-school and realized how easily one can go along with dehumanization in order to save his life. As much as we humans like hiding behind false truths, we're merely trying to go easy on ourselves and to maintain our breakable feeling of control. We don't control shit. From the moment I read Holocaust accounts, I've met a lot of people assuring me that these days wouldn't ever happen again because people would fight harder and longer. Ha. This fallacious argument first forgets that it already happened again, and secondly it dismisses way too quickly how readily people accept awful behaviors if they become the norm. We can hate ourselves for that, but I'm not sure what we're trying to achieve when we forget that. There will always be people who fight, but they'll often be fewer than those who silently accept or participates in the dehumanization. Now how can we change that is the real question. “The ease. Us, the children... I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.” This is what makes Kindred both so interesting and horrifying : Dana, a 25 years old black woman, is transported from 1976 to 1815 whenever her ancestor - Rufus - needs her to stay alive, straight into the plantation his father runs. What follows is an unflinching and very important look at what slavery really was and how its mechanisms worked, without, for once (thank you thank you), an ounce of romanticization, but rather a complex but unforgiving portrayal of what many books would sell out as a Good Master (ugh). This is what the world needs. I often mention my students in my reviews, but honestly, it's because I often feel that we ask more of children than we do of fucking adults. At ten, they're able to understand that their intend doesn't mean anything if they hurt someone : they still have to be held accountable. The world needs to hear that as white people, we might not intend to comfort and sustain white supremacy, yet every time we buy into some romanticized version of slavery, we do. A slaver who falls in love with one of his slaves is still very much a monster in my book. So, what? The guy has feelings? SO WHAT? He'll still buy and sell people as if they were furniture. He'll still make them work, hurt them, for his sole gain. What Kindred shows the reader is that no matter how easily we could feel sorry for said slaver - as Dana sometimes does - it doesn't change a thing. It should never change a thing. “Rufus had caused her trouble, and now he had been rewarded for it. It made no sense. No matter how kindly he treated her now that he had destroyed her, it made no sense.” Served with a compelling and frightening plot, Kindred won't let you look away and will capture your all being until the very last page - if that's not the mark of great books, what is? This novel is absolutely terrifying and it doesn't need any zombies to be : people are the monsters. White people are, and the fact that it actually happened in history makes it even more chilling. More, if we look at History as a whole, slavery has stopped in the US such a short time ago. And if Kindred reminds us of something that we should have never forgotten, it's how easily we come to adapt to - or make the best of, how horrible that can sound - such an horrendous system. In the end, we humans want to live. This ongoing thirst might make us able to do great things, but it also makes it harder for us to fight. “Repressive societies always seemed to understand the danger of “wrong” ideas.” I wish this novel would be more famous worldwide, because if it's apparently studied in High-school in the US, I had never heard of it before last year - as I found, it was translated into French in the 2000s but by such an unknown publisher, it's a shame. When are we starting to translate - and promote - these important books rather than the last NA by Colleen Hoover? Really? As the first science-fiction novel published by a black woman, and as a fucking amazing book that will linger in my mind for so long, because I'm neither able to forget these complex and fascinating characters nor the message they carry, I'd say the world should wake the fuck up and read this book. Now. TW - Slavery, Rape & Attempted Rape, Graphic Violence, Use of several ableist slurs (crazy, retarded) For more of my reviews, please visit:

  13. 5 out of 5

    Christy

    Kindred is about a woman named Dana who gets transported/time-travels back to the past. She travels way back to the time when her great-great-grandparents were alive. This also happens to be a time of slavery. Dana is a black woman from the 1970’s who is married to a white man. Each time she is thrown into the past, she has to learn how to live and survive in this time while staying true to herself. 
 I love books about time travel. One of my top favorite reads of all time (The Time Travelers Wif Kindred is about a woman named Dana who gets transported/time-travels back to the past. She travels way back to the time when her great-great-grandparents were alive. This also happens to be a time of slavery. Dana is a black woman from the 1970’s who is married to a white man. Each time she is thrown into the past, she has to learn how to live and survive in this time while staying true to herself. 
 I love books about time travel. One of my top favorite reads of all time (The Time Travelers Wife) has it. This was very different from that book, but I still love that aspect of the story. Kindred is such an interesting book. It really made me think and it’s a story that I know will stay with me. 

I have never read a book quite like it before. Dana time-travels back whenever her ancestor is in trouble. It can be days later for her, but years have passed in the past. It boggles the mind. It’s heartbreaking and painful to know that things like this really happened in the not so far back past. I loved Dana’s character and how strong and steadfast she was. She stole the show. Rufus is a character you loved to hate. I actually loved seeing him through Dana’s eyes. I wish Kevin’s character would have been more developed but a part of me thinks he was there to show how much things had changed from the past to the present time. 

Kindred is part historical fiction and part sci-fi. It’s a complex story that’s thrilling, intense and I couldn’t put it down. I listened to the audio book and thought the narrator did a fantastic job. This is a book I would definitely recommend.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Miranda Reads

    4.5 stars New month, New Booktube Reading Vlog - tier-listing all the books read in July! The Written Review Simply incredible. Full review to come 4.5 stars New month, New Booktube Reading Vlog - tier-listing all the books read in July! The Written Review Simply incredible. Full review to come

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook/sync/ebook Voice narrator Kim Staunton was outstanding.... Absolutely fantastic! At times I felt like I was watching a movie.... and Staunton had a lot to do with the ‘movie-feeling’ experience. She demanded my attention- I even stood taller while soaking in our warm water pool. The time travel/fantasy/historical fiction blend worked beautifully... kept me interested. Dana Franklin is a strong protagonist - a black woman married to a white man during the 70’s. Each time she is thrown bac Audiobook/sync/ebook Voice narrator Kim Staunton was outstanding.... Absolutely fantastic! At times I felt like I was watching a movie.... and Staunton had a lot to do with the ‘movie-feeling’ experience. She demanded my attention- I even stood taller while soaking in our warm water pool. The time travel/fantasy/historical fiction blend worked beautifully... kept me interested. Dana Franklin is a strong protagonist - a black woman married to a white man during the 70’s. Each time she is thrown back in time she has to grapple with the devastation-slavery-era - vs. remembering who she is: a free woman/born free. Oh my - the children and messages in this book are priceless. The creative crafty storytelling, ..... with so much -WRONGNESS - INJUSTICE & DISPARITY had me thinking - as in ‘living’ -in both- the past and present world. This was my first book by Octavia Butler....( sad to know she is no longer alive)... What a beautiful passionate writer she was. I’ve own this book for years ... It was seeing the movie - “Just Mercy” recently- adapted from the incredible book by Bryan Stevenson - And.... connecting with author *Hana Ali*, whom I had the privilege of sharing with recently as well.... who told me ‘Kim Staunton’...(voice narrator of ‘her’ memoir): “At Home with Muhammad Ali”. ( a book I’ve not read ‘yet’ but look forward to)..... that inspired me to choose “Kindred”.... To experience both Octavia & Kim I certainly waited long enough to read this ‘classic’( ?/!), book. and...... SO MUCH BETTER than I expected. (as I often tend to shy away from words like sci-fi, fantasy, and time travel)... But honestly>> there was absolutely nothing to worry about - I would’ve missed a wonderful story and introduction to an author I had not read. Blessings & Thanks...to all the readers of this book who came before me.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Reading Road Trip 2020 Current location: Maryland Octavia E. Butler's biography could just break your damn heart. Her father died when she was 10, she had no siblings, her family was poor. She was a self-described “loner,” a woman who was tall and awkward and friendless. From the recent bits and pieces I researched, as I started this novel, I gathered that her romantic life was either private or nonexistent. (Was she gay? Asexual? Sickly?) As far as I could tell, she had substantial medical issues a Reading Road Trip 2020 Current location: Maryland Octavia E. Butler's biography could just break your damn heart. Her father died when she was 10, she had no siblings, her family was poor. She was a self-described “loner,” a woman who was tall and awkward and friendless. From the recent bits and pieces I researched, as I started this novel, I gathered that her romantic life was either private or nonexistent. (Was she gay? Asexual? Sickly?) As far as I could tell, she had substantial medical issues and lived with her mother, and died, far too young, at 58, of a stroke. It's hard not to hum a few bars of Sarah Vaughn's “Lonely Woman” while sorting through Ms. Butler's online photo gallery. And yet. . . she was a writer, and not just any writer, but a female writer of science fiction. This is so extraordinary to me, my closeted sci-fi self has always rejoiced, just knowing that Ms. Butler's work was still out there for me to explore. In fact, while I was researching titles for this figurative road trip of mine, I set aside my devotion to one of my all-time favorite writers, Anne Tyler, to give Ms. Butler's “sci-fi” novel from 1979 a try. (For the record, my favorite novel set in Maryland is Tyler's Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant ). So. . . how was Kindred? Conceptually: fantastic! A twenty-something Black woman, married to an older white man in the 1970s, disappears from her new house in California and time travels to 1815 to a plantation near Baltimore, Maryland. The reader isn't given any more info than that. Dana, our time traveling protagonist, appears to be connected to the slave owners in Maryland, and, similar to Henry from The Time Traveler's Wife, you are asked merely to suspend your disbelief that this can happen. In other words, if the genre of “science fiction” makes you uncomfortable, take heart, there aren't any other aspects of it here. Just one piece you need to buy into: Dana time travels and, unlike poor Henry from TTTW, she does not arrive naked at her next destination. What Ms. Butler imagined here is juicy and delicious. . . a modern Black woman, married to a white man, is forced to have everything threatened, everything taken away from her. When her husband grabs on to her arm and travels with her on her a later journey, the plot thickens. Wow! What a crazy idea, to throw this couple and their modern ideology into the Southern cookpot. . . So much could happen here!! So. . . does it? Nope. Not only that, the dialogue here is some of the worst I've ever encountered. It wasn't long before this book became the next entry on my “nobody talks like this” shelf. Nobody talks like this to each other, and certainly not two romantic partners. The “verbal” exchanges between our young couple, Dana and Kevin, were flat-out painful for me. I did not experience one page of this read without thinking: this is a book. I'm reading a book. I never, not once, felt as though I had emerged into this world. This novel lacked authentic dialogue, character development, and depth. I felt like I was in a world of cardboard cutouts for characters and poster boards for scenery. On page 208, our time traveling protagonist, Dana, declares, “I wanted so much for it to be over.” So did I, Dana.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~

    "I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery." Actual Rating: 4.5 Stars This was such an excellent book. Kindred tells the story of Dana Franklin, a black woman who is suddenly whisked back in time from 1976 to pre-Civil War Maryland in 1815. This novel is a beautifully elegant analysis of a not-so-beautiful period in American history. Using a prominent element of Science Fiction, Butler confronts the poisonous attitudes & double standards that are propagated by racism "I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery." Actual Rating: 4.5 Stars This was such an excellent book. Kindred tells the story of Dana Franklin, a black woman who is suddenly whisked back in time from 1976 to pre-Civil War Maryland in 1815. This novel is a beautifully elegant analysis of a not-so-beautiful period in American history. Using a prominent element of Science Fiction, Butler confronts the poisonous attitudes & double standards that are propagated by racism, but from a modern perspective. I enjoyed how this book didn't shy away from being brutally honest. It doesn't seek to obscure the cruelty of the time period. It doesn't ask for the approval of its readers. It forces you to examine. We all like to think that we wouldn't have participated in that atrocious behavior that has stained our history. It's easy for us to imagine ourselves as a hero, to pretend we would have loudly & proudly condemned the enslavement of human beings. But would we have? Dana's excursions may suggest otherwise. At times she even finds herself adjusting her actions to mold to the past & providing forgiveness where she never would've expected to. To discuss history is to remember it. To remember it is to prevent it from repeating itself. Keeping the conversation alive is vital. I would recommend this book to everyone. I only docked half a star because I spotted one or two trivial inconsistencies. Otherwise, a marvelous classic and one I'm sorry I waited this long to pick up. This review and other reviews of mine can be found on Book Nest!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    Before Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad, there was Kindred, a grueling plunge into American slavery with a fantastic twist. One of the great time travel novels, right there with Time and Again and 11/22/63. Aspects of the narrative might be too agonizing for the tender at heart, but I was with it all the way, from first sentence to last. Before Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad, there was Kindred, a grueling plunge into American slavery with a fantastic twist. One of the great time travel novels, right there with Time and Again and 11/22/63. Aspects of the narrative might be too agonizing for the tender at heart, but I was with it all the way, from first sentence to last.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dolors

    Kindred is a hybrid novel, difficult to categorize. Partly science-fiction, partly historical novel, it addresses race, gender and class issues in the context of slavery but, and this is the complexity of this book, in two timelines, antebellum Maryland and modern California. Butler, far from trying to make sense of time travel and how it suddenly affects the protagonist of the story, uses the sci-fi device to transport a free Afro-American woman to a colonial plantation near Baltimore to explor Kindred is a hybrid novel, difficult to categorize. Partly science-fiction, partly historical novel, it addresses race, gender and class issues in the context of slavery but, and this is the complexity of this book, in two timelines, antebellum Maryland and modern California. Butler, far from trying to make sense of time travel and how it suddenly affects the protagonist of the story, uses the sci-fi device to transport a free Afro-American woman to a colonial plantation near Baltimore to explore human resilience when confronted with the vexation, humiliation and manifold forms of abuse, physical and psychological, of treating human beings as property to be used, misused and trafficked with. I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the time travel episodes but I will confess I was instantly pulled into the story. Dana, the narrator, and maybe even the author’s alter ego, challenges the reader to get to grips with the cruel reality of slaves, of their everyday life and their will to survive mainly with the sole idea of protecting their endangered families from the masters’ whims and vicious “rights”. The artifice of time travel serves the purpose of making historical barbarity a tangible and constant threat and to better understand the huge amount of silent courage required of those oppressed to endure all sorts of inhuman punishments. Butler’s prose is rather unadorned and definitely plot-driven, but she is very accurate in recreating the social mechanisms that enabled slavery in the Southern States; the violence, the helplessness and the loss of whatever self-dignity might be left to those born into captivity. The effects of racial bigotry and subjugation on the making of identity are clearly delineated and open a debate on the reader’s mind. Progress has been made since the days of legal enslavement, of course, but is it enough? Books like this one remind us that we should never lose that silent courage, that will to survive in order to fight injustice and oppression, if only, to pay back the huge sacrifices that our ancestors made so that we could exist, so that we could be here, living a relatively comfortable life, now, today, and hopefully, a life that will be fairer when our children fight their own battles in the future.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    BkC10) KINDRED by Octavia E. Butler: Excellent!! I still agree with myself. And what better review for Valentine's Day than this time-travel novel in which a modern-day African-American woman is summoned by her slave-owning ancestor to rescue him at critical moments, and then must pimp her slave ancestress to the slave owner to ensure that she is born? Rating: 4.75* of five The Publisher Says: The first science fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American lit BkC10) KINDRED by Octavia E. Butler: Excellent!! I still agree with myself. And what better review for Valentine's Day than this time-travel novel in which a modern-day African-American woman is summoned by her slave-owning ancestor to rescue him at critical moments, and then must pimp her slave ancestress to the slave owner to ensure that she is born? Rating: 4.75* of five The Publisher Says: The first science fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity. Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life. During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given: to protect this young slaveholder until he can father her own great-grandmother. My Review: Oh my heck. Modern African American, circa 1976, makes her way in the slave society of 1815, and all that that entails. It's not an easy, fluffy read, but it's amazing how Butler pulls no punches and still manages to keep the easy, smug path of good = noble, bad = horrible, from making her characters into masks capable of expressing only one emotion. I liked reading the book because it pulls no punches, and it left me breathless at frequent intervals with its complete willingness to engage all, each, every, facet of human love. Octavia Butler, gone too soon, wrote this meditation on survival when she was abour thirty. What a feat that is. So young, and so sharply critical of denial and misdirection...so ready to face up to the underlying motivations and the foundational lies of each and every character's identity...what she must have been like as a friend! Her insights would be Buddha-like, if they were anything like the honest and unsparing insights she used in creating this book. Beautiful, hard, fiery. Like a diamond, it will cut anything you can show it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Raeleen Lemay

    The ending was a bit underwhelming, but other than that I loved this book! In a story like this, getting a detailed explanation for WHY everything is happening is really important to me, and I definitely didn't get that closure. Open endings can be really great, but it wasn't what I wanted from this book. That being said, the journey was really enjoyable. Tough to read at times, but amazing nonetheless. I can't wait to read more of Butler's books!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nadine X

    I wanted to love this book. But it has many flaws. I'll get to that in a few, but first, let me gush about what's great about it. The plot/premise is brilliant. I love the idea of a modern black woman being propelled back into time to help one of her white ancestors to survive, even if he becomes a mean and despicable slave master. I love the fact that it used time travel, which I usually hate, but found tolerable here. I love the observations of the protagonist, Dana. She's an interesting chara I wanted to love this book. But it has many flaws. I'll get to that in a few, but first, let me gush about what's great about it. The plot/premise is brilliant. I love the idea of a modern black woman being propelled back into time to help one of her white ancestors to survive, even if he becomes a mean and despicable slave master. I love the fact that it used time travel, which I usually hate, but found tolerable here. I love the observations of the protagonist, Dana. She's an interesting character, with a lot of strength, and some flaws that I found believable. The book is easy to read, but perhaps that's where I start my critique. It sometimes over simplifies in an effort to push through the story. There was a lot of opportunity for complexity, and the author sorta takes the easy way out in many instances. Also, it feels a little dumbed down at times, and the author tries too hard to explain some things, and it comes off as contrived. In other instances, though, she doesn't explain enough, like why Dana is traveling through time in the first place. Overall though, it's a really ambitious and brilliant concept, and a fascinating read. We need more African-American novels that use paranormal elements to explore socio-historical issues. I applaud Octavia Butler for taking the risk and pulling it off, mostly.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Book Riot Community

    Kindred is one of those books that feels like it should be required reading for everyone. It’s a page-turning, disturbing, provocative, complex, incredibly smart novel. Technically it’s science fiction, since it involves time travel, but it doesn’t follow a lot of other SF conventions. Dana, an African-American woman living in late 70s LA, is suddenly taken back to Antebellum Maryland, where she saves a young white boy from drowning. Although she is inexplicably whisked home, she is brought back Kindred is one of those books that feels like it should be required reading for everyone. It’s a page-turning, disturbing, provocative, complex, incredibly smart novel. Technically it’s science fiction, since it involves time travel, but it doesn’t follow a lot of other SF conventions. Dana, an African-American woman living in late 70s LA, is suddenly taken back to Antebellum Maryland, where she saves a young white boy from drowning. Although she is inexplicably whisked home, she is brought back to the past again shortly, where she realizes her task is to save the life of this white man who turns out to be her ancestor, over and over and over. If you didn’t already know Octavia Butler was a genius, this book will convince you. — Casey Stepaniuk from The Best Books We Read In September 2016: http://bookriot.com/2016/10/03/riot-r... ____________________ I admit that I am usually too hesitant to pick up books about slavery. This year I’m trying to get over my hesitation and this was one of my biggest overlooked books. Even though it’s a few decades old, Kindred really holds up. Every time I thought it might be getting a little problematic, it was just me not seeing that Butler was setting me up to address the very issue that was making me uncomfortable. She stares harsh truths and prejudices right in the face and she also creates a story you cannot stop reading. –Jessica Woodbury from The Best Books We Read In July 2016: http://bookriot.com/2016/08/01/riot-r...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    In honor of Science Fiction and Fantasy Week, I am finally taking this book from my TBR queue and actually reading it. The author called this a “grim fantasy” and the description fits. I’m not a big fan of SF or fantasy, but a dear friend of mine has been touting this book for ages and it’s time for me to set aside the netgalley queue for a few days. Dana becomes the victim of unwanted time travel. She doesn’t know why it’s happening but all of a sudden she’s being transported back to early 1800 In honor of Science Fiction and Fantasy Week, I am finally taking this book from my TBR queue and actually reading it. The author called this a “grim fantasy” and the description fits. I’m not a big fan of SF or fantasy, but a dear friend of mine has been touting this book for ages and it’s time for me to set aside the netgalley queue for a few days. Dana becomes the victim of unwanted time travel. She doesn’t know why it’s happening but all of a sudden she’s being transported back to early 1800s Maryland Eastern Shore and her ancestors. The book doesn’t bother dealing with why or how happens. The book’s strength lies in her ability to portray the time, place and personalities of the time. The other strength is comparing how Kevin and Dana see what’s happening around them, male vs. female, white vs. black. This part makes the book especially timely, given the current conversations in our society. I don’t normally care for books involving time travel or other non realistic ploys. But it works well to be able to compare modern day sensibilities and past beliefs. It also works well to show how quickly one can come to accept what you’re surrounded by, even when those surroundings would have formerly offended your sensibilities. “The ease. Us, the children...I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.” The book is totally engrossing. I read this quickly, incapable of staying away from it. Fair warning, parts of this book are exceedingly dark and not for the faint hearted. But it’s an amazing story. Highly recommend.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Fares

    4.9 stars This should turn into a classic one day! Here's a review for you. READ THIS BLOODY BOOK PLEAAAAAAAAAASE!!!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    This is pretty much a historical novel with a bit of SF icing, focusing almost exclusively on the relationships built between a mid-1970's modern black woman who is continually sent back in time to save an ancestor from an early death. Unfortunately for her, she's a black woman on a slave plantation, and she's stuck there for a disproportionately long time, sometimes even bringing her white husband back into the past with her and sometimes leaving him behind. Theres a ton of time dilation, where This is pretty much a historical novel with a bit of SF icing, focusing almost exclusively on the relationships built between a mid-1970's modern black woman who is continually sent back in time to save an ancestor from an early death. Unfortunately for her, she's a black woman on a slave plantation, and she's stuck there for a disproportionately long time, sometimes even bringing her white husband back into the past with her and sometimes leaving him behind. Theres a ton of time dilation, where moments pass in the modern world and years pass in the past, so it brings a real sense of horror to the story as her real life tumbles away into long absences with her husband. Of course, the real story isn't about Dana and Kevin, our moderns. Or at least, their intro brings to life a closer contrast of living as a slave, and not always entirely that different from those living in such humiliating circumstances on the plantation. Sure, science, medicine, the abolition of slavery, the freedom to speak your mind, all of that is very well and good, but it says a lot right out of the gate that Dana was able to fit into the frankly horrifying life of the past without too much struggle. Life as a temp slave as she struggled with her dream to become a writer seemed to be merely an appetizer before the grand meal of humiliation and torture. I can make a pretty solid argument that most people live an all too-similar picture of daily grind and humiliation, and it's only in the matter of degree that anything has really changed, either that, or it's a matter of sublimation. Dana was seen by too many of those past slaves as an black who pretended to be white because she was educated and tried, with varied success, to stand up to the one person she was nearly irrevocably tied to: Rufus, the son of the plantation owner, who despite Dana's best efforts, still turned out to be a fucking ass. Is it merely cultural? Is it thoroughly cultural? Butler's argument really seems to push aside individual will, time and time again, with every push in the right direction met with an equally feverish backlash. Sure, we could have had these reversals take place as a science fictional trope, but Butler does something much more interesting. She blames people for being people. Those times were a travesty of human stupidity and misery, and it's an even bigger blow to us as a species that it's hardly isolated or unique. We live in our own version of slavery, still, even if so many of the particulars have improved, we're still weighted by expectations, assumptions, and bloody-mindedness no less destructive. Be kinder to our writers. Give them an outlet to create wonderful mirrors to ourselves, such as this novel. I'm very sorry to know that Butler had passed away, and I'm sorry that it has taken me these many years to finally come around to reading her for the first time. If she was still around, I'd like to thank her. Since she isn't, I'll thank everyone who still remembers this book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Cecile

    I wish someone would make this into a movie.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Taryn

    Without any warning, Dana Franklin is thrust back through time and space. It's 1976 and she's settling into her new California apartment when she starts to feel dizzy. Her modern surroundings fade away and suddenly she's in antebellum Maryland. She seems to be inextricably linked with Rufus Weylin, the young son of a plantation owner. Dana is pulled to Rufus anytime his life is in danger, which happens with surprising frequency. The era is dangerous for Dana--she's black and has no enforceable r Without any warning, Dana Franklin is thrust back through time and space. It's 1976 and she's settling into her new California apartment when she starts to feel dizzy. Her modern surroundings fade away and suddenly she's in antebellum Maryland. She seems to be inextricably linked with Rufus Weylin, the young son of a plantation owner. Dana is pulled to Rufus anytime his life is in danger, which happens with surprising frequency. The era is dangerous for Dana--she's black and has no enforceable rights. It turns out that she and Rufus both need each other to survive, but they are also capable of destroying each other. Slavery was a long slow process of dulling. Kindred is a quick read because the language is plain and it's dialogue-heavy, but there's so much to unpack. I was surprised that the logistics of Dana's time traveling were never addressed, but the time traveling is just a framework to explore the themes. Octavia Butler describes it as a "grim fantasy" and there's no science. Dana's story begins in 1976, two hundred years after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. It's such a whirlwind! Because of the mechanics of Dana's time traveling, each chapter begins and ends with a life-threatening situation. The chapters have titles like The Fire, The Fall, etc. that give hints of what's to come and add to the intensity. Rufus is a few years older every time Dana returns to the plantation, so we get to watch him and the other characters as they grow up and their roles on the plantation evolve. Dana is always marked by her experience when she's transported back to California, sometimes permanently. When we first meet Dana, she is laying in a modern hospital bed after her left arm has been amputated. “The ease seemed so frightening,” I said. “Now I see why.” “What?” “The ease. Us, the children … I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.” Dana was intellectually aware of the horrors of slavery, but her education doesn't prepare her for the brutality she actually experiences. She sees how inadequate Hollywood is at portraying the real thing. Dana is shocked at the ease with which people settle into their institutionally-defined roles, herself included. She's especially shaken when she sees the children playing slave-trading games. Dana notices that despite the disdain with which we view slavery now, wide-scale, government-sanctioned oppression has been allowed to occur repeatedly in the modern era. She specifically mentions Nazi Germany and apartheid in South Africa. “Better to stay alive," I said. "At least while there's a chance to get free." I thought of the sleeping pills in my bag and wondered just how great a hypocrite I was. It was so easy to advise other people to live with their pain. Like many slave-owners, the Weylins use family attachments to keep the slaves in line. Dana's hands are similarly tied by family; her entire ancestral lineage depends on Rufus. Dana has to betray her modern values in order to ensure her eventual birth. In an era with only bad and worse choices, she begins to empathize more with the slaves on the plantation. With hindsight, it's easy to create caricatures of those in the past and forget that they are complex human beings with nuanced relationships. Dana sees firsthand how privileged it is to judge someone's actions from a safe distance and how sometimes what seems like the best course of action can have terrible ramifications. But even Dana falls into the trap of feeling superior to others: "I looked down on her myself for a while. Moral superiority. Here was someone even less courageous than I was. That comforted me somehow." His father wasn’t the monster he could have been with the power he held over his slaves. He wasn’t a monster at all. Just an ordinary man who sometimes did the monstrous things his society said were legal and proper. In Han Kang's Human Acts, there's a section about how everyone has the potential for good and evil and a character wonders how humans can be directed towards the more humane path. Kindred explores how institutions drive behaviors and make it hard to change anything. Sometimes there were glimpses of potential goodness in the Weylin men, but the brutality always wins out. Dana tries to exert a progressive influence on Rufus, but it's an impossible task when everything else in his world is working against her efforts. There are some parallels between Dana's life in the 1800s and the 1970s. In 1976, Dana works what at she calls "the slave market," a temp agency where "nonpeople rented for a few hours a few days, a few weeks." At first, it made me think about the casualness with which words like "slave" and "Nazi" are thrown about in the modern world. But as the parallels continued, I also began to see the way the remnants of the past worm their way into our present and the basic human impulses that can snowball into something horrific. Strangely, they seemed to like [Rufus], hold him in contempt, and fear him all at the same time. This confused me because I felt just about the same mixture of emotions for him myself. I had thought my feelings were complicated because he and I had such a strange relationship. But then, slavery of any kind fostered strange relationships. Only the overseer drew simple, unconflicting emotions of hatred and fear when he appeared briefly. But then, it was part of the overseer’s job to be hated and feared while the master kept his hands clean. At one point Dana's husband Kevin, a white man, is also transported to the Weylin plantation, which adds some additional complications. His presence makes it safer for Dana because he can pretend to be her owner, but what happens if she gets transported back to 1976 and he's unable to grab onto her in time? She's worried about what this era will do to him. Will it destroy him or rub off on him? Kevin is essentially a good man, but sometimes clueless. I expected more from him, so sometimes I'd be as angry with him as I was with Rufus. Like Rufus, he is more progressive than his forebearers but he's still a man of his time. There are times in both 1976 and the 1800s where he's unable to see outside the lens of his own experience. He remarks on how plantation life isn't as bad as he would've expected, unaware of how different his experience is from Dana's experience and unable to confront the true horror of something he'll never be subjected to. Repressive societies always seemed to understand the danger of “wrong” ideas. The most jarring thing about Dana's character is she quickly accepts her fantastic situation. She is somewhat detached from her experiences. Much of that is purposeful as she eases into her role, but maintains an observer's distance. However, she remains remarkably levelheaded from the beginning. While Dana sometimes felt "empty" to me, Butler really brings the supporting cast to life: Alice, Luke, Nigel, Carrie, Sarah, and even characters with smaller roles like Sam. Maybe Dana was written the way she was so that the reader could essentially "inhabit" her body and become a time traveler themselves. My edition included a critical essay by Robert Crossley, which includes information on Octavia Butler's background as well as analysis of Kindred. There were some aspects I picked up on, but many I didn't. Because of my prior knowledge and the book cover, I didn't notice that Dana's race was withheld until a specific moment. I loved learning about Butler's mischievous reasoning behind choosing a spouse for Dana. Crossley also writes about how the science fiction landscape and the nature of the "alien" changed with the inclusion of female authors, which was really interesting. I've been meaning to read Kindred for a long time, but I just now made time for it in preparation to read Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation (review coming soon). One thing is clear: I need more Octavia Butler in my life! I think those that enjoy this book might want to try The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, which addresses slavery but plays with time in a different way. Even if you didn't like The Underground Railroad because some of the liberties the author you took, you might want to give Kindred a try. Despite the time travel, it keeps an accurate historical timeline.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ⚔️ Queen of Villainy ⚔️ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest There are a lot of books that talk about the antebellum south, especially in romance novels where it is a popular setting, but few seem to capture the sheer unfairness of what it must have been like as a non-white person living in the South in the nineteenth century. I love Octavia Butler's science fiction, but KINDRED is a book that I purposely put off reading because I'd heard it was brutal. Good, but brutal, and utterly unflinching in Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest There are a lot of books that talk about the antebellum south, especially in romance novels where it is a popular setting, but few seem to capture the sheer unfairness of what it must have been like as a non-white person living in the South in the nineteenth century. I love Octavia Butler's science fiction, but KINDRED is a book that I purposely put off reading because I'd heard it was brutal. Good, but brutal, and utterly unflinching in the portrayal of that brutality. Dana is a black woman living in the 1970s. Her husband, Kevin, is white, and both their families disapprove of that union, even in the twentieth century. Things are pretty good for Dana, though; she has a decent job, a husband who loves her, and her own house filled with books. All that changes when one day, without explanation, she's plunged into the past to save a white relative from death. Rufus is the son of a plantation owner, and one of her relatives, the Weylins, although her family history is so occluded that until now, she never realized he was white. There's a bond connecting them, tightening whenever Rufus is about to die - and the only way that Dana is able to return to her own time is when her own life is threatened. Some people have said that this reminded them of OUTLANDER, and that's true: the time-travel is just as sketchy and mysterious, and neither shrink back from cruelty and rape. What makes KINDRED such an interesting book is the complex way that Butler portrays slavery. She makes so much social commentary about both the twentieth century and the nineteenth century, and despite being published about forty years ago, it still feels fresh and modern. Dana struggles with slavery as a modern woman, and yet even she realizes how sinister a trap it is: when you have no rights, any concession feels like a blessing, to the point where you may start to feel affection for someone just treating you like a human being. She experiences something akin to Stockholm syndrome, and sees firsthand how some of her peers struggle and are oppressed by those same societal constraints. KINDRED is not an easy read. There is rape, and torture, and cruelty of all colors. The N-word is bandied around a lot (because this is the South in the nineteenth century, and it would not be realistic otherwise). I think many readers, white readers especially, will probably be shocked at the no-holds barred approach, especially if they're accustomed to the version of history that sugar-coats the antebellum period and has slaves and black servants being adored and treated like family. Dana herself has a similar moment of disillusionment when she is researching the period and picks up a copy of GONE WITH THE WIND, only to put it down in disgust. The fact of the matter is, slavery happened. It happened and it was awful, and it happened. But it's important to know that it happened, and what it was like; it's important to know that real human beings suffered at the hands of other human beings, and were made to feel different based on where they came from and the color of their skin; it's important to know that injustice is a real and painful thing that is mired in our shared history and continues to be perpetuated to this day. It's important to know that, so we remember why we must never go back; and why we must do our best going forward to work towards a future of true equality. We still have a ways to go. 4.5 stars

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    “She had done the safe thing-had accepted a life of slavery because she was afraid.” “Kindred” is a novel I would not have picked up on my own, but it was a book club selection so I dutifully read it. Although I do not think it is a great text, it is a good story. When I accepted the limitations inherent in a story about time travel, and focused on the aspects of the writing that are quite good, and not those that are weak, I found I read it quickly and was no worse for the wear. In short, the sto “She had done the safe thing-had accepted a life of slavery because she was afraid.” “Kindred” is a novel I would not have picked up on my own, but it was a book club selection so I dutifully read it. Although I do not think it is a great text, it is a good story. When I accepted the limitations inherent in a story about time travel, and focused on the aspects of the writing that are quite good, and not those that are weak, I found I read it quickly and was no worse for the wear. In short, the story is that of a black woman from 1976 who is transported back and forth to 1815 and the Maryland farm on which her great great grandfather (a white man) and her great great grandmother (a slave) meet. Octavia Butler (the author) does not flinch from the brutality in slavery, and yet it is evident (from an author interview in the text and from the book itself) that she is using the daily aspects of slavery in service to her story, which thus gives them more power. As she says, “The route to readers’ heads is through their guts and nerves, and that requires good storytelling, not just a good set of issues.” With that in mind, she wrote a novel that is not polemic, a danger for any book with a focus like this one. As I read "Kindred” I kept thinking this is a text that would be good for high school students. The characterization is not particularly deep for any one character (is that a limitation of the science fiction genre?) yet there is enough there to discuss and extrapolate a bit more from. At times I felt the book took the easy way out by not examining some issue further, but again that is not the kind of book Ms. Butler was trying to write. This is not “Beloved” and never was meant to be. Yet, serious issues are there if you care to focus on them, and they are given thoughtful attention. There are numerous times in the novel where some idea or thought was beautifully rendered and I had to stop to appreciate and digest it. However, you could also gloss over them if you so choose and just read a historical time travel science fiction novel. The choice is the readers, and I think either is probably correct.

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