In the month of March, I decided to take the Challenge up by a notch and go for a seemingly difficult prompt. I mean, how many times do you see a reading challenge have a prompt that says ‘Read a book by a Neurodivergent Author’?
What seemed at first like a difficult task, led me to a lightbulb moment, when the RWC Goodreads discussion board told me that books by Octavia E. Butler would fall under this category. I had never read any books by her, although have read countless posts and reviews praising her works. And so, Kindred it was for my Reading Women Challenge – March.
Kindred – Octavia E. Butler
Trigger Warning – Violence, Racism, Sexual Abuse
We meet Dana in summer of 1976, the day of her twenty sixth birthday. She hopes of being a writer someday and she’s just moved into her new home with Kevin, her husband.
As Kevin and Dana are unpacking and preparing to settle in, Dana inexplicably vanishes. The next thing we know, Dana finds herself in the antebellum South in the early 19th century, trying to save a kid who is drowning. This drowning kid, who we later learn is called Rufus, goes on to ‘call’ Dana back to his timeline many times over; each time round Dana has to risk her life to save him, each time in saving him, Dana learns a little bit more about the bond she shares with Rufus, and the devastating effects it might have on her own life.
From being a hopeful writer in her present day, to being assumed a slave in this alternate timeline, through Dana’s time travels, we get to experience the horrific pains and humiliation of slavery, and ultimately what it means to be human.
Kindred is a difficult book. Not the writing style, but in the way it is extremely raw and honest, to the point where it pushes you to the brink with its depiction of what it meant to be a slave working on a plantation in the deep south in the 1800s.
More often than not, I was out of my comfort zone, visibly squirming and disturbed at what I was reading, and lapsing into long spells of introspection every time I took a break from reading. In making me do so, I believe, Octavia E. Butler achieved what she intended to achieve with Kindred.
It was also surprising and discomforting to find that Kindred was published in 1979. How is it that a book published over 40 years still remains relevant? And what does that say about us?
So I stand by my point when I say Kindred is a difficult book, however, Kindred is also an essential book, a relevant and a compulsory read for everyone.
Octavia E. Butler, in writing Kindred, also became the first black woman to write science fiction. It is this article about her that I particularly loved which talks about her childhood, growing up years and the experiences that shaped the idea behind Kindred.
‘I never realised how easily people could be trained to accept slavery’
Reading Women Challenge – Total Prompts completed 4 / 24
- A book with a rural setting
- A book with a cover designed by a woman
- A fantasy novel by an Asian author
- A book by a Neurodivergent author
Cover image courtesy amazon.co.uk