Monday, March 19, 2012

Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler

Barnes & Noble

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.

For a book club challenge, I had to read a book by a black author or about a black character. I had not heard of Octavia Butler prior to doing a Goodreads Listopia search to find a good book. I am incredibly glad that I chose this work: the writing flows naturally, even across centuries; the premise is one that I had not encountered before; and it is a story that will stay with me long after I return my copy to the library.

The combination of historical fiction and time travel -- as told through the eyes of a modern* black woman -- presents us with a host of questions! There are the standard time travel questions of whether or not changing the past will change the future. But then there are the deeper questions: How does a strong, well-educated black woman survive in an era when slaves are considered property, not human beings? How do you remember who you are in the present when you're told that you're "too black" and "too white" in the past?

An amazing read that keeps you thinking. I look forward to reading more of Butler's works!

*Butler wrote this in 1983, so think of "modern" from 30 years ago, as times have changed since then.  For example, there are characters in the book who look at Dana and Kevin oddly because of their interracial marriage. I hope that has changed for the better in the past three decades.

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