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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Time of Blacks, Whites, and Grays,
This review is from: Kindred (Paperback)There are very few Afro-American science fiction writers, and even fewer of them are female writers, but they all have one thing in common: They write excellent fiction. Butler is not only no exception, she is one of the standard setters, and this work is a prime example.
This is a story of Dana, a modern Afro-American writer married to a white writer, who is drawn back in time to live with Rufus, plantation and slave owner in the period of 1815 - 1830, and also her distant ancestor. Though the mechanism by which she is forced back in time is never rationally explicated, this is almost immaterial, and Dana (and the reader) must simply deal with the transfer as a fact. But she is always drawn back at those times when Rufus is in danger of losing his life, from a near drowning to a contemplated suicide. When she helps him out of sheer humanitarianism, it leads to her having a rather strange position within his household, neither wholly slave nor anything close to being the equal of the whites. From this position, she can observe all the interactions between owner and slave, and at least initially be somewhat shielded from the worst of the living conditions of the slaves.
That shielding will not last, as Butler develops a powerful theme of how unbridled power leads to abuses that crush lives and hope, and just as much imposes character changes in the wielder and the recipient of such power. As a stark portrait of living conditions in that time, as a diatribe that exposes just how much has been conveniently forgotten about slavery and its demeaning, demoralizing effects, this work will evoke emotions of shame, rage, and empathy with all who are, through no fault of their own, caught in situations with very limited choices. This theme is just as much an indictment of male dominance as it is of slavery, just one more example of power wielded inappropriately.
The character of Dana is vividly portrayed, as she slowly changes from modern American to someone who accepts compromises of principal in the name of survival, till she is a person who can barely recognize who and what she was before these incidents. Rufus and his father are also very well delineated, and the personal interactions of Dana, Rufus, and several of the slaves drive much of the plot action. Somewhat less well shown is the character of Dana's husband, and his motivations and actions don't ever seem to gel into a full-bodied person, a pity as this could have been the third pole of her theme, the reaction of a modern, liberal white to these conditions.
Butler's prose is more than adequate to her task, often lean and starkly descriptive, but there are places where I felt she should have added additional detail, dwelt on some scenes in greater depth, in order to better bring out the true horror of the situation.
Butler does not have the recognition (or the sales numbers) of Toni Morrison, but with this book she shows that she belongs in the same company. Whether this book is read as obviously well researched historical fiction, as science fiction that meets the prime criteria of that field as a literature of ideas, or as a novel of character, it is prime fodder for thought, while engaging all of your emotions.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Quantum Leap into History!,
This review is from: Kindred (Paperback)This is a classis book that connects modern literary to a historical time and place. You are immediately drawn into the story by the powerful opening first pages. The idea of connecting 1970s LA to slavery times in the deep South by using time travel is a unique way of allowing the reader to enlighten their ideas about slavery in a very modern context.
Miss Butler's book not only encourages black people to know about the struggles in their history but also for white people to understand what was happening to African Americans during slavery. At times it's sad and heart rendering. You are transported into another time by the excellent literary skills of Octavia Butler. I felt connected to Dana's character and how she begins to find out about her ancestry, a story that probably is familiar with most families in America.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as a friend recommended it to me. I felt it was a written well. It did not linger on things that didn't push the story forward. The relationships between the slaves and their masters are not detailed enough for you to fully understand the reality but the relationship that Dana has with both parties fulfils that need to know more about the slave-master relationship.
The only criticism is that there is not enough of the story that focuses on the slaves and their relationship with Dana and her husband. I think I would have love to her more about Sarah's life and the slave community that Dana has to fit into. I would also liked to have seen more about how Dana and her husband coped with life changing events that were happening to them.
Overall it is one the best books I've read. I am an avid reader of Toni Morrison and I would thoroughly recommend that people who love reading black literature would adore this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rather strange?,
I found the beginning and end of the trapped arm very odd, but it made a full circle of the story and meant she never forgot what she had been through with Rufus.
It was an unusual and interesting way/vehicle to describe and attempt to understand how it felt to be a slave and why/how slaves became compliant.
It was very well written and I was gripped by the story.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars slavery as experienced by a modern black woman - 150 years in the past,
However, once there, she must submit to the dictates of her time, i.e. being viewed as a property regardless of whether of not she is legally free. The family essentially claims her as its own, and she is treated more or less like the other slaves on the plantation. This begins an extraordinary transformational journey, where she (and for a time her husband from her own time) must adapt if she wants to survive. SLowly, we see her take on the characteristics of a slave, observing the people around her while standing out because of her knowledge and language and eventually the recognition that there is something abnormal about her appearances.
Nowhere have I ever read a narrative that translates the slave experience into such palpable terms, in ways that we can understand as her contemporaries. Though I read a lot of history, this book was still a revelation to me, from the standpoint of being able to understand the psychology of slavery, the banal everyday fears, and the rage that they subsumed in the name of survival. Most of all, Butler explores the power relationships - how the slaves perceive it, how it creates social division between slaves, and how it corrupts the slave owner. It adds up to a deep portrait of a frighteningly different place, which we would find almost completely alien.
Beneath that is a very deep novel, with innumerable themes that develop through the course of the book. You have her husband, who holds her and makes the trip once. Left behind, he adapts to the time and even becomes like the whites then, though he works in the underground railroad. You also have the character of Dana, who grows into a totally believable survivor, who will not give up certain parts of her dignity but still can maintain appearances; she allows her great-great grandmother (a slave) to abuse her as a way of expressing her anger. Finally, it gives perspective on today, not only in the way political attitudes evolved in the South (directly from the culture portrayed) but also in the way readers question themselves about what they would have done, if anything, to change and survive. Very powerful stuff.
Highest recommendation. Butler was one of the best American writers.
5.0 out of 5 stars An SF Classic,
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This review is from: Kindred (Black women writers series) (Paperback)This is an incredible book. Octavia Butler was one of lamentably few female African American SF writers, who justly became famous for the way her books unflinchingly deal with feminist and race issues. Kindred is a perfect example of this, and a fine example of how SF can deal with real world issues in an insightful and meaningful way. It tells the story of a modern day African American woman who is sent back in time to the time of slavery in the Deep South, where she must protect the son of a plantation owner in order to ensure that her ancestors are born. The book is remarkable for both its well drawn characters and the way in which it casts an unflinching, modern eye on the horrors of slavery. It is essential reading, and not just for fans of SF or time travel stories.
5.0 out of 5 stars Time Travel, with Soul,
Dana is a young writer who has just moved into her new house with her husband when she is first "called" back to antebellum Maryland to save the life of a small child. Only a few weeks pass in her current time, but as the novel progresses, several years go by in the era to which she is continually returned.
It takes her a while to figure out why this is happening, and then to determine just what she is willing to accept in order to survive in these strange circumstances, where she is nothing more than property. What is terrifying to her, and to me, is just how commonplace the life becomes, and how quickly. At one point when she is called back, she finds her way to the plantation house and shocks herself by saying "home at last."
The thread tying her to plantation life is Rufus Weylin, a mercurial, selfish man of his time who makes continuously more disturbing demands on Dana. To tell you why she doesn't simply reject him out of hand is to give away the bulk of the story. Dana does what she has to do to get along, and hates herself for it. There is no cut and dried answer to any choice that she might make. No matter what she does, someone will suffer. She, and we, are keenly aware of that.
I haven't even touched on the experiences of Dana's husband, Kevin. He happens to be white, and his reactions to this time are, of necessity, different to Dana's. I would have liked to have known what happened to him during the parts of the novel where he is absent, as he seems to have his own story to tell.
Of inestimable value is the introduction by Robert Crossley, which tells a bit about Octavia Butler's career for those of us who might not be familiar with her, and which prepares us for the themes we will encounter.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction to Sci-fi...,
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book,
2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Classic,
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