This is day four of the #WeekofReveiws #Reviewathon challenge hosted by Andi at Estella’s Revenge. If you would like to read my earlier reviews click here , here, and here. And click here if you would like to see my star rating system. Also be sure to visit Estella’s Revenge to read Andi’s reviews and links to #WeekofReviews by other bloggers participating in this challenge.
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
- Original Pub. Date: 1977 (eBook 2004)
- Publisher: Beacon Press
- Format: Kindle
- pages: 287
- Source: Amazon.
- 4 stars
Dana, a Black women celebrating her 26th birthday in 1976, unexpectedly travels back in time to a plantation in Maryland. She finds herself saving a young white boy, Rufus, from drowning. Then she is whisked back to her own time. Thus begins Dana’s travel to a slave plantation in the early 19th century. Dana returns time and time again each trip staying longer and longer. She is whisked back to the 20th century when her life is in danger. While there she is forced to face the reality of slavery for women and men. Plus deal with her white, slave owning ancestor, Rufus, who is awful.
This book is a roller-coaster of a ride. Reading it makes it clear the horror of slavery and its horrible effects on both the slave and the master. Dana is forced to return to the plantation anytime Rufus is in danger, and each trip spends more and more time there. She is treated as a slave so must learn to adapt to this world in order to survive it. This, of course, is difficult and awful for a 20th century woman. But she manages to overcome the suspicions of her the other slaves and become a part of their community. But at the same time she is relied upon by Rufus and is his friend and confidant. In this role she tries to encourage Rufus be kind to his slaves and eventually free them. But this does not stop Rufus from being awful to her and everyone else on his plantation.
Dana brings her white husband, Kevin, on one of the trips. As a white man, his experience of the past is much different than Dana’s. And Kevin even suggests that they go West and join in the expansion of the country.
“This could be a great time to live in,” Kevin said once. “I keep thinking what an experience it would be to stay in it–go West and watch the building of the country, see how much of the Old West mythology is true.”
“West,” I said bitterly. “That’s where they’re doing it to the Indians instead of the Blacks!”
He looked at me strangely. He had been doing that a lot lately.
For Kevin the past is a great adventure with untold possibilities. Not so for his wife. Kevin is left behind in the past and, after bearing witness to his wife’s beating for disobedience, goes North to become an abolitionist. He is left behind for years. Dana does return and is able to take Kevin back, but he is forever changed by the experience, as is Dana.
It’s hard not to see how different this story of slavery is from other stories about the romantic Old South. After all, there aren’t many out there that take the point of view of someone enslaved. Reading this makes it hard to ever see slavery as benign. There is nothing romantic about it at all. And this book is fairly unknown, though it does show up on African-American literature and women’s literature lists. If you are interested in reading the work of a pioneering black, female, science fiction/fantasy writer who confronts slavery head on, give this book read.