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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Just Finished Reading...Kindred by Octavia E Butler

People had been talking about this author and this book, so I decided it was about time to give it a try. So I downloaded it from iBooks. Big mistake to start this before bedtime. I was up reading till 4.00 am!

Kindred tells the story of Dana, an African American writer working on her first novel, who finds herself becoming dizzy one afternoon and suddenly appearing in early 19th century Maryland, which is definitely not a safe place for anyone with a black skin - especially for an educated person with a black skin. She timeslips back and forth, saving the life of a white ancestor, Rufus, each time he is in mortal danger. It’s usually his own fault, but she has little choice. She is simply whisked from her own time to his every time the idiot is in danger - and getting home is a painful process. But she has to do it, at least until he fathers her great something grandmother, or run the risk of never being born.

A fascinating timeslip story. Usually in timeslip tales, the character will take over the body of an ancestor. In this case, she simply arrives, physically, in time to save her ancestor, more than once. In fact, she takes her husband along the second time, because he’s holding her.

It’s not SF, of course, it’s fantasy. We never do find out how all this is happening, only what the rules are for getting back. Or why it happens when it does. And because the book was written in the 1970s, the "present day" is the 1970s and there are things we can do now, such as go online to research, that Dana and her husband can't. I wonder what a film or TV mini-series would do with the setting? Would it be updated? It's fun to speculate!

However, the important thing in this story is the characters - Dana, her white husband Kevin, who has to pose as her master in the past, the boy/young man she has to save - what do you do when you have to help someone you don’t much like? When you don’t know when you’ll be dragged back into the past? What happens when you’ve spent months or even years in the past and you’re back in your own time? Can you adjust?

There are other issues, but spoilers! Just read it. And read this Wikipedia entry about the author. Fascinating life! A true working class heroine - and reading it made me think that Dana’s life is just a bit inspired by her own background. Like Dana, Octavia had a Mum who wanted her to do a secretarial course and did a lot of dull jobs that let her get on with the writing late at night. A wise choice! If she’d become a teacher, say, she just wouldn’t have had the time or energy for writing as much as she did.

Now, excuse me, I have to find some more Butler to read. Any recommendations from Butler fans out there?


Shannon Lawrence said...

Sounds intriguing. I've read other stories along these lines. I wish I remembered the title of one I read back in middle school, but it was an antique mirror dragging her back in time.

Sue Bursztynski said...

You’ll probably remember late at night. If you do, come back and tell us. :) Timeslip stories are not uncommon. Usually, though, you don’t go physically. I remember one in which the girl is whisked into the body of an ancestor and sees an injustice done by her family. But it was written long after this one.