Further Thoughts on “Kindred” with Many Links

I lead a local community book group. This month’s selection was Kindred by Octavia Butler, which I wrote about here.

As I researched the book and author in preparation for the discussion, one thing began to stand out. Again and again, the book is referred to in terms I think might put people off from reading it. The author herself called it “grim fantasy” and that’s what Charles Stross referred to it as in his recent post “Time Tourism” on why women don’t time travel in fiction much. Adjectives from the back of the book include shattering and terrifying, And while these may be true, this book is so much, much more. It’s a gripping page turner, with a strong memorable main character, and a supporting cast that deconstructs racial stereotypes like these detailed at the blog Nicole Be Thinking:

Common stereotypes of black women include the Mammy, who is “everyone’s favorite aunt or grandmother;” Jezebel, the “sexually promiscuous, libidinous black woman;” and Sapphire, who is “usually shown with her hands on her hips […] as she lets everyone know she is in charge” (Yarbrough; Hudson 243). In my reading, I have come across another stereotype, the tragic figure of Cassandra (Yarbrough).

Do not be afraid of this book. Read it. Everyone should. It’s changed, and continues to change, my way of thinking and seeing the world.

The links I found were many, and fascinating, and I can’t do them justice, but in case you’re also wanting to know more about the book and its author:

Kindred is representative of a body of counter-narratives seeking to challenge dominant, utopian portraits of American democracy and the veneration of post-racialism as the state of U.S. race relations since the end of the civil rights movement.

Butler on time travel:

People who think about time travel stories sometimes think that going back in time would be fun because you would have all the information you needed to be much more astute than the people there, when the truth is of course you wouldn’t.

A short bio.

Reinventing the slave narrative.

Why it should be a movie, here and here.

It will be a graphic novel.

Themes of power, community and motherhood

About publishing Kindred:

“Kindred” was repeatedly rejected by publishers, many of whom could not understand how a science fiction novel could be set on a plantation in the antebellum South. Butler stuck to her social justice vision - “I think people really need to think what it’s like to have all of society arrayed against you” - and finally found a publisher who paid her a $5,000 advance for “Kindred.”

“I was living on my writing,” Butler said, “and you could live on $5,000 back then. You could live, but not well. I got along by buying food I didn’t really like but was nourishing: beans, potatoes. A 10-pound sack of potatoes lasts a long time.”

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