This weekly feature is hosted by Renee(Its Book Talk). Throwback Thursday offers a way to share some of our old favorites as well as sharing books that we are finally getting around to reading that were published over a year ago.
About the Book
The first science fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity. Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life. During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given: to protect this young slaveholder until he can father her own great-grandmother.
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler is one of those books that I can’t remember getting. It was on my TBR for quite a while until I picked it up last week. Now, I regret having taken so long to read it. I am now more keen on finding out which other gems are on my TBR.
Dana and Kevin are in an interracial marriage in 1976. The two are both writers and they seem happy and well settled. All this changes when Dana suddenly found herself taken back to the 1800s. One minute she was at home with Kevin and the next, she was saving a drowning boy in 1800 and soon afterwards, facing the barrel of a gun before suddenly, finding herself back to 1976. The time-travel kept occurring until Dana and Kevin found out why and how she kept teleporting. However, this still did not prevent it.
I have always been curious about time travel. I remember reading 11/22/63 by Stephen King and thinking about what it would be like to be able to go back in time and change things. However, this book made me realize just how dangerous the past can be. Dana kept teleporting to the slave period. As a black woman, she found herself struggling with living in that era. There were many harrowing scenes in the story that broke my heart.
The book has very well-crafted, memorable characters. I really liked Dana. She was a strong character and she put herself in danger a couple of times for the sake of others. I also liked her husband, Kevin, who I thought was very supportive of her. I liked how he kept trying to protect her despite the danger. Rufus is the boy who Dana kept trying to save. He was an enigma. I liked and disliked him in equal measure. It was interesting to watch him grow up from the child that Dana saved to the man that she still had to save.
The theme of slavery which is dominant in this book was quite moving and heartbreaking. I feel like I learn something new whenever I read a book about slavery. In this case, I learned more about weddings between the slaves and the differences between free blacks and slaves. I also learned about resilience and what it took for slaves to survive. I can’t imagine what their lives were really like, the horror that they endured each and every day. It must have taken a lot of strength and resilience to survive that period.
In addition, I learned more about diseases and ailments in the past. I can’t imagine how anyone survived in that era before the invention of modern medicine. Two incidents that stood out for me involved the treatment of a broken leg and ague (malaria) and then magic of brine in treating wounds and especially broken skin after whip lashes. Thank God for modern medicine though.
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler is a wonderful read. It is described as science fiction because of the time travel but everything about this story was quite realistic. I think that this book is a metaphor of how easy it is to take steps back to the history that we fought so hard to leave behind. Racial conflicts and inequities still exist in this era. There are various forms of neo-slavery that show that the past isn’t really left behind, it just morphed into something acceptable in the present. This book also allows readers to look at past events through the POV of someone living in the present.
I have a feeling that this book will stay with me for a long time.