Book review: Kindred

The 1979 novel by Octavia E. Butler.

Courtesy of Goodreads

The 1979 novel by Octavia E. Butler.

The 1979 novel Kindred, written by Octavia E. Butler is an unpleasant book. It tells an unpleasant story, has unpleasant characters, and for the majority of the time I spent reading this book, I was unhappy. Yet for some reason, I couldn’t put it down.

Octavia E. Butler is a well known science fiction writer, who is known for writing Parable of the Sower, Fledgling, and Kindred. As an author, Butler was one of the first Black writers to enter the science fiction genre. 

Kindred follows the life of Dana Franklin, a young Black woman living in California. Soon after her 26th birthday, Dana finds herself time travelling between her California home in 1976, to an 1815, antebellum Maryland plantation. During her visits from her home and the plantation, Dana realizes that she has no control over when and how she can time travel, and tries to stop the time travel for good. 

Like any other story that includes racism or slavery, this was a hard book to read. Because of the pure torture the enslaved Black people went through, I found myself distressed while reading it. However, it was also written very well, and many times while reading, I had to put down the book to really process what I had just read.

 There were many things that upset me about this book, but the main one being a character named Rufus Weylin. Rufus Weylin was a white boy living on the plantation, and was the son of the plantation/slave owner, Tom Weylin. Early on in the book, Dana finds out that Rufus is her ancestor, and that she has to keep him alive to ensure that she is born. 

To find out that the main character, a Black woman, had to care for and ensure that her extremely racist and terrible ancestor stays safe was annoying to say the least. To add on, every non Black person in the book seemed to downplay the racial experiences that Black people were experiencing. In the book, there was even a conversation between Rufus and Dana where he finds out that Dana is from the future. After finding out, he then says that Black people should get over slavery because it had been abolished for 100 years.

Overall, Kindred was exceptionally written, and did a good job at showing generational trauma and the disregard of Black struggles in the present day. Dana quite literally had to live the generational trauma her ancestors had experienced. A character from 1815 said to get over slavery, and there are still people today who say to get over slavery. Although slavery is over, the effects of it are not, even in the 21st century. There are still harmful stereotypes against Black people that could harm them.

In Kindred, Dana was not able to fully understand what an enslaved Black person went through until she was actually put in the situation, and in many cases, non Black people aren’t able to understand Black struggles unless they are in the same situation. 

Although upsetting, Kindred was a well written and good read. I would suggest it to anyone interested in checking it out. It is definitely worth anyone’s time to read.

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