Review: “Kindred” by Octavia Butler

Title: Kindred
Author: Octavia Butler
Started: 02/02/2010
Finished: 02/04/2010
Source: Library

When Dana, the young protagonist, finds herself transported to the Antebellum South her modern sensibilities are challenged and unable to protect her. She will travel back to plantation life 6 times to ‘save’ a young boy as he grows up. She soon realizes that he is (or is going to be) her great-great-grandfather. Her great-great-grandmother will be one of his slaves. Dana finds herself stuck between two worlds, how things ought to be (1976) and reality (1800s).

Using the ‘trick’ of time travel, the author does not let us distance ourselves from the ugliness of slavery. Dana is not allowed to be just an observer but finds herself dealing with the realities of slavery and that she must compromise her principles to survive. We are not able to stay detached, as you could in some documentary or fictional story that is appreciated and then forgotten but instead we, with our modern sensibilities, are forced to travel with her.

Dana does not return unscathed by her experience with slavery. Each time she goes back to the past she brings back more scars with her, both physical and psychological. Why does she lose her arm on her last trip? Possibly to show us that Dana will be permanently scarred by her experience, much the same way that America has been scarred by our experience with slavery.

Reading To End All Wars, I was shocked and horrified by the callousness of the Japanese. Yet America’s treatment of black slaves was no less inhumane. The Japanese and the plantation owners both abused and terrorized their captives in much the same way. Looked at this way, it is much harder to condemn the Japanese for something that is not so far removed from our own history.

I truly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone wanting to read a great story. I guess the fact that I read the 260 pages in 3 days attests to how much the story intrigued me.

First Sentence

  • I lost an arm on my last trip home.
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