One part history, 3 parts horror. Coating of slavery. Dash of science fiction. Bake for 273 glorious graphic pages of pure thriller.
Hints of: Outlander, Antebellum
Warning: Extreme racism, slavery, lots of cursing, bit of gore.
Butler’s most celebrated, critically acclaimed work tells the story of Dana, a young black woman who is suddenly and inexplicably transported from her home in 1970s California to the pre–Civil War South. As she time-travels between worlds, one in which she is a free woman and one where she is part of her own complicated familial history on a southern plantation, she becomes frighteningly entangled in the lives of Rufus, a conflicted white slaveholder and one of Dana’s own ancestors, and the many people who are enslaved by him.
Alright, lets begin. I'm ashamed at myself for just now finding Octavia Butler. She is the existential black science fiction novelist and well renowned for her works.
Kindred is one of her most famous works and I can surely see why. Throw away Outlander. This is the OG time travel feminist novel. The realism in the writing and how she just simply doesn't mince words is so terrifyingly awesome it really makes you fearful for the main characters life.
So here we are in 1970s america where we meet Dana and Kevin. Our interracial couple who writes for a living. Things are going well, until Dana gets dizzy and falls. When she awakes she's by a river where a boy, Rufus Wheylin, is drowning. Her quick thinking leads her to jump in after him and perform CPR to save his life. Curiously though a woman is yelling at her to stop and confused at what she is doing to her son. Finally we end the scene with a few N words passed and then the barrel of a gun thrust into Dana's face. Back to 1970.
This event is OBVIOUSLY surreal. Not simply because of the transportation throughout space. Little does Dana know but she was actually just cosmically thrust through time back to Antebellum Maryland.
As she begins to regal her experience with her husband Kevin the dizziness comes back. When she awakes Rufus has grown some but she hasn't changed a day. Still, he remembers the woman who saved his life all that time ago. This time Rufe has managed to burn some drapes in his room and the flames are threatening to takeover the house. Dana puts the fire out and begins to ask some questions. After a time she realizes what has happened and that her worst fears have become true. She is in the South during the slave era. With no knowledge of hoe to properly navigate this world or when she'd be able to return to hers she begins to panic. She make Rufe promise not to tell his father of her and she starts to flee north. Unfortunately not far from the plantation she is found by the patrols and beaten. During a particularly violent blow she wakes back up in 1970 to a terrified Kevin. It had been a few hours but his wife has returned bruised and bloodied.
Dana realizes what has happened and tells Kevin her theory. Somehow she is linked to this young boy in his times of need he brings her like an angel. She wont be unprepared this time however. Her and Kevin begin researching the time period in preparation for the next jump. Never straying to far from each other and staying away from others as to not draw attention. As they sit to have a meal the dizziness begins again. This time however Kevin isn't letting her go alone and grabs hold to transport with her. Thats when the fun truly begins.
Kindred is a fascinating novel and a subject that is both fun and unconformable. I say fun because the concept of figuring out how to live and act in different time periods makes you realize just how much trends have changed. Its uncomfortable for the obvious reasons and also the not so obvious. With Butler's experience as a black woman herself there are insights into slave history and how a contemporary woman would be perceived that a white man such as myself would've never thought about. For example a slave named Alice becomes a fixture of the novel. Revealed to be a distance relative of Dana she becomes intertwined with Rufus in a sexual way. Dana, thinking about the future of her house implores Alice to go along with Rufe's demands for fear of Alice being killed and causing a butterfly effect that her erase Dana from history. We also get this thinking correlated to a slave by the name of Carrie who leads the cookhouse. She says Alice needs to go along with is so they all don't get sold South.
Parts of Kindred don't hold back. There are extremely graphic and uncomfortable moments throughout but its a refreshing uncomfortable. What I mean is that its nice to not beat around the bush. Lets rip open these wounds and discuss it. Some of the things our ancestors thought were ok have not and should not ever have been ok. Its nice to showcase that honest discussion even if it is in comic book form.
I gave Kindred 5 stars because surprisingly Octavia Butler was ahead of her time. Black, feminist, science fiction author. I mean name a better combination. I will surely be finding more of Butler's works to read in the future.
Drink Pairing: Classic Sazerac, I picked this pairing because you seriously need a stiff one while reading this roller coaster. The story of the Classic Sazerac goes back to 1838, Creole apothecary Antoine Peychaud invented the Sazerac in his shop at 437 Royal Street, New Orleans. Antebellum Whiskey from the South...I mean thats Kindred