Books! / I'm an English Nerd

Book Review: Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Kindred is an interesting read. Part science-fiction, part historical novel, this story follows a black woman, Dana, from 1976 Los Angeles and her white husband as first she, then both of them, get transported back in time to 1830s Maryland via a white boy, Rufus, who calls upon Dana every time he is in trouble. Dana experiences slavery first hand and runs into several instances where her life is in danger, which also transports her back to her present day.

One can imagine the issues that would come up in such a situation. How much time does she miss in 1976 when she’s been in 1803s Maryland for eight months? Do her wounds follow her back to the future? Why is it a white male that keeps beckoning her back to the past? This book was written in 1979, and is considered to be one of the first science-fiction novels written by a black female. I think Butler does a good job of making the sci-fi part of it as realistic as possible. She also excels in creating a spooky mood throughout the story, which is one mood I have always associated with black history in the United States. It is represented as spooky through the literature we read about it because of the secrecy often involved with movements such as the Underground Railroad, slave revolts, and escaping slaves. However, at times, I felt like Butler’s writing was weak. She didn’t keep the pace going, and there were times when she could have described more. Nonetheless, I would recommend this book to people who enjoy reading good historical fiction.

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