Book Review #74 – Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler

Hello hello!

The review I bring you today is on Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler.

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I’m currently a member of a Goodreads group called #readwomen. You may recognise the title from the initiative I was a part of last December, where all books read were written by female authors. The person who had the idea for that, Manda, also created this bookclub. The March title was Kindred. I have to confess that I’ve had neither heard of this book or the author. But when the synopsis said it was the first science fiction novel written by a black women, I knew I had to read it!

It all starts with Dana, an african-american woman, celebrating her birthday in 1976’s California. Suddenly, she feels dizzy and, before she knows it, is transported to a river bank, where a little boy is drowning. This is the first time she goes back in time, where she constantly needs to save the life of her ancestor, who happens to be a slave holder.

I had no idea what to expect from this book since I had no previous knowledge of it. What I know is that I wasn’t expecting to like it so much. It’s by no means an easy book, but that what else would you expect from a book set in the antebellum times?

This is not a typical sci-fi book. There’s no advanced technology, no device that makes the time traveling possible. Because this isn’t about that! Time travelling is only there to provide a mean to tell a story about a modern black women having to deal with the oppression her race and gender had to go through. Butler herself didn’t like the sci-fi label!

As a portuguese white woman, I have no idea what it felt like to Dana to live through the things she had during the course of this novel. I’m sure that life still wasn’t perfect for a black women in 1976 (hell, it sure isn’t now) but going from that to slavery must be fucked up. Although, I couldn’t help but put myself in her shoes. I could perfectly understand her internal conflicts. Having to be a part of things you’re complexly against of just to survive must be terrible. And that was due mostly to Butler’s amazing writing. Her descriptions are so intense and incredibly well done, you actually feel every whip in the slave’s backs as they were your own.

What I though really interesting about this book was the way it portraits and develops white male characters, specially Rufus, Dana’s ancestor, and Kevin, her husband. It was very fascinating to understand how those times shaped what appeared to be an innocent boy into a mean ignorant man, and how they influenced a modern husband that isn’t used to be considered way superior than his partner.

The ending was my favourite part of this book. I loved how it reenforces the notion that there’s scars that won’t heal. How you cannot live through those times without having to leave a part of you behind. How somethings cannot and will not be forgotten when there’s still injustice in the world.

This is a very difficult book to talk about since it tackles so many terrible things. My heart was constantly hurt during the whole reading process. The notion of feeling superior to someone due to their race or gender is something completely unthinkable to me. It gives an interesting insight on American society and how it was founded on such absurd concepts. This is such a thought provoking read.

Although this isn’t the most enjoyable read in the world, I think I’ll be recommending it for a long time. It’s such an important book! I know my review makes no justice to it but it’s all due to many feelings and thoughts colliding in my brain and making it impossible to write something coherent! I think there’s things in life that you’ll love so much, you won’t ever be able to talk about them eloquently. This is one of those things. So, just go read this book, ok?

Here’s a quote I particularly enjoyed:

Like all good works of fiction, it lies like the truth.

If you guys have read this, share some thoughts with me!

See you soon,

Cat.

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