Kindred

By Octavia E. Butler,

Book cover of Kindred

Book description

From the New York Times bestselling author of Parable of the Sower and MacArthur “Genius” Grant, Nebula, and Hugo award winner

The visionary time-travel classic whose Black female hero is pulled through time to face the horrors of American slavery and explores the impacts of racism, sexism, and white supremacy…

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Why read it?

10 authors picked Kindred as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

My list would not be complete without Octavia Butler’s Kindred. Ms. Butler trailblazing the way and being the first woman of color to write in science fiction and urban fantasy is the reason I am a writer today. Time traveling Dana was my first exposure to not just urban fantasy before the genre bore the name, but to seeing myself in fiction that I enjoyed reading, and writing fiction that I enjoyed reading. I became immersed in her story, in her world, in her life. For the time while I read, Kindred, I became Dana. That to me…

I like this novel because it contrasts two vastly different worlds—both in the same country on the same planet, but in different time periods. 

Dana Franklin, a young black woman, is suddenly swept out of her 1970s California home to an early Nineteenth Century Maryland plantation where she saves Rufus Weylin, the plantation owner’s five-year-old son, from drowning. She is “called” back many times over Rufus’ life when he’s in a jam, and each time she stays longer in the past. Over the course of her sojourns on the plantation, she must pass for a slave, which proves to be…

From David's list on science fiction about outsiders.

When I was in college then grad school, everyone was talking about Octavia Butler. Given that I’m not particularly drawn to sci-fi, I ignored the talk. And then I read Kindred. It’s more an exploration of the legacy of slavery than it is a dystopian adventure, though the novel includes time-travel and adventure.

As with the other books on my list, the characters are complex and their dilemmas, seemingly irreconcilable. Set in 1976—significantly, the Bicentennial—the interracial couple at the center of the novel has to combat the attacks and abuses concerning racial mixing—in quite literal ways, as the female…

From David's list on complicated Black-white relations.

Talk about family issues! In this time-traveling novel, Butler asks her Black protagonist, Dana, to come to face a White ancestor as she is transported from modern-day Los Angeles to this ancestor’s home in the antebellum South. This story held me rapt as I watched Dana’s existence depend on preserving the life of the white man who enslaved her family. She had to save him to save herself—and yet, how could she? Butler’s writing is powerful and compelling as she explores issues of race, gender, and family. Race is one of the most important issues for Americans to consider at…

I met Octavia in 1999 at a science fiction convention. She was so intelligent, friendly, and inspiring. Her novel Kindred features a strong female lead character, and time travel. The way she writes is very visual and compelling and I love her voice. She weaves messages and social commentary into her stories, but in a way that brings you along for the ride. It is sad that Octavia left us so soon. I’m sure she had many more books to write that we will never see.

It's a fantasy novel, or is it horror? A Black woman is transported back in time to the slave plantation where her ancestors labored. The story has the reader asking vital questions from the beginning. The knife's edge tension almost never lets up—and when it boils over, the results are explosive.

From Alex's list on boundary-pushing fantasy.

In some ways, Octavia Butler’s 1979 novel is a conventional time travel narrative, but Butler’s investigation of American slavery and its lasting impact was prescient. Moving between the antebellum south and 1970s Los Angeles, Kindred implicitly asks us to consider the similarities and differences between the two worlds. Butler is both perceptive and generous in her ability to create and help readers understand flawed characters.

I recently have discovered the brilliance that is Octavia Butler. My first experience was Parable of the Sower and then Kindred. The woman was an oracle. Most of the societal issues we have today concerning race, class, and climate change were explored and predicted by Butler in the 80s. Her work is so deep and layered, but community and optimism are always at the center of it. Even with a work like Kindred, which follows a 26-year-old woman living in 1970s California who is suddenly pulled back in time to a plantation in Baltimore, Maryland where she meets her…

Octavia E. Butler is now recognized as the ‘mother of afro-futurism’ and I think Kindred is possibly her best novel—taut, searing, heartfelt, Kindred makes the past of race-slavery startlingly present, and her protagonist must deal with some very difficult yet insightful issues as she time-travels from the 1970s to the 1830s. It also asks the reader to reconsider what it means to be family, as the protagonist, Dana is repeatedly confronted with a white ancestor she had previously not known about. My students always rave about this novel.

I struggled over which of Octavia Butler’s books to include in this list. Her Xenogenesis trilogy (currently published as Lilith’s Brood) was a strong contender, given the deft way in which she used the series to challenge social hierarchies of race, gender, and sexuality. In the end, however, I had to go with Kindred. For one thing, it involves time travel, and as a former history professor that tends to be my favorite subgenre of science fiction and fantasy, both as a reader and as a writer. 

Kindred was also the first book of Butler’s that I read,…

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