Sunday, September 4, 2016

Problems and the bigger ones

There are plenty of books that fuck me up but Kindred fucked me up pretty good. It was painful to read but felt cleansing. Cathartic is the best word for it.

It also made me realize that the best books I've read this year have all been written by black women, a subset of authors who were largely missing from the readings assigned from kindergarten all the way up until I got my BA in English literature.

But Octavia Butler did show up in ONE of my college English Classes. We read a short story of hers in my junior college science fiction survey class. I'm really glad I got the opportunity to read her, but FUCK, why did no one think she belonged in my Modern American Lit survey?

Kindred is amazing and painful. It pulls back the veil on the ugliness of slavery from a 20th century perspective while ALSO illustrating that the 20th century was by no-means a post-racial society. Dana is a brilliantly crafted character who has to struggle with layers and layers of oppression and interpretation of that oppression both in her time and in the antebellum era she is transported to.

There's a lot that I could talk about here; Dana's painful encounters with Rufus, her guilt over her interactions with Sarah, her inability to find her place in either time, but I think one of the most interesting and fraught relationships shown in the novel is Dana's marriage to Kevin. She loves Kevin and he loves her but there's a distance between them that Kevin alone is incapable of seeing. The subtlety of Butler's commentary on 20th century race relations through Kevin's privileged perspective of racism is beautifully done and a tremendous part of what makes the novel so compelling - even when Dana is safe she's never really safe, even when she is recognized as a person she is still a woman, and black, and still seen as somehow "less than."

I'd strongly recommend that anyone reading this blog read Kindred. It's stunning.

     - Alli

Butler, Octavia. Kindred. Beacon Press. Boston: Massachusetts. 2003. (1979).

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