It’s been a while but following the recent events in Charlottesville last week, I felt the need to switch gears and read a more topical book for review. I wanted something that would fit into my Resist! series.
Book Title: Kindred
Author: Octavia Butler
Themes: Diversity, Racism, Slavery, Intolerance, Own Voices
Goodreads Link: Click here
Star Rating: – Insightful and spellbinding
I read this book once before, it left a mark on my mind, but I think this is one that needs multiple readings to really begin to appreciate it. A short synopsis is in order:
Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin. – Goodreads
A book set at America’s bicentennial of 1976, that revisits the slave plantations of the mid 1800’s. If you learn one thing from reading this book, it is that we are not that far from slavery and mindset that engenders it, and that it’s effects are real. Dana has seen the movies, and t.v. shows that feature slavery. She has read the books, and heard her own family history, but nothing can prepare her for the reality. Nothing can prepare her for how easy it is to become victimized. She is stunned to realize that such a horrifying place could start to feel like home and the danger of succumbing to that.
“ I closed my eyes and saw the children playing their game again. “The ease seemed so frightening,” I said. “Now I see why.” “What?” “The ease. Us, the children … I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.”
It is frightening how easy it is to accept subjugation when you are overwhelmed by fear and pain.
Ms. Butler herself said the book was “grim fantasy” and that is an excellent description. The author doesn’t get mired down in any of the magic or science needed to explain the mechanics of Dana’s trips to the past. That allows the book to focus on what is paramount, the relating of the horrors of Dana’s situation and through those horrors allowing us to see these characters as real people, and see the complexities of the situation they are in.
How is it that we are in 2017 and we still have people in the highest offices of the country who would desire to legitimize racism and slavery? That they seek to do this by honoring the ones who fought for it, by preserving plaques and statues to Confederate heroes is incredible.
The argument is made that we can’t just deny American history. They say, “Keep the statues of the Confederate Heroes! Venerate the ones who fought to enslave an entire race of people!” Yes, it is history. It is history, much like the genocide of the Native American people, the abuse of immigrants, the Japanese internment, the continued torture of LGBTQ people, this is all history. The heroes of American History wade ankle deep through the blood of innocents. This cannot continue.
We are 152 years from the end of slavery, 53 years from the end of the Jim Crow laws, 41 years from the bicentenial that marked the end of Dana’s journey, one week from the Charlottesville protests. Incredible that this fight is not over yet, but I am hopeful for the next generation. I’m a Gen X-er. I watch these young people, the Millennials, and I’m hopeful. They have access to information, education, and are a brave and empathetic group. My hope is that in their hands the future can more quickly become what it is meant to be … female, and black, and brown, and trans, and gay, and asian, and a multitude of wonderful people all working together. It’s do-able. Right?!
After I finished writing this review I listened to the recent episode of This American Life. This week it centers on Afro-Futurism, and it coincides nicely with Kindred. Please take a listen. It is fascinating!