Book Review: Kindred

Having read some of Octavia Butler’s work before, I knew reading Kindred was going to be an emotional journey. It did not disappoint.

Dana is a young, African American woman in 1976 California. She and her husband, Kevin, a white man, are in the process of moving into their new home when Dana suffers a dizzy spell and is suddenly time-traveled to pre-Civil War Maryland – to the exact plantation where she knows her ancestors lived. Moments after arriving, she saves a young, white boy, Rufus, from drowning, an event she later determines was the catalyst for her time travel. It’s this relationship with Rufus that keeps her going back and forth in time. Eventually, Kevin is pulled through the tether too, an experience that gives him a new perspective on American history. 

I’m not sure anyone can get excited about reading a book where a modern African American woman travels back in time to the Antebellum South, but not all reading should be for fun. Sometimes it’s good to read a book, even if it’s fiction, to deepen your understanding of our human experience. Even the ugly parts.

Book Review: Parable of the Sower

Before The Hunger Games, the Divergent Series, and The Maze Runner, there was the Parable of the Sower. Unlike today’s dystopian novels, where there is a contest to be won or a large looming government that manipulates its people for sport, Parable of the Sower is a story of survival. Written in 1993 and set in 2024, the novel lacks the technological devices (literary and otherwise) that we see in dystopian stories today, which is a feature I appreciate and prefer. There are no gadgets to get one out of a tight spot.

Lauren Olamina is the daughter of a preacher, but what she comes to believe about God, creation, and human nature is unique to her. The world she lives in isn’t compatible with her father’s faith, a world broken down by erratic climate and global economic upheaval. The dwindling family survives by banding together with others to stay alive outside the city of Los Angeles.

When a fire ravages their compound, Lauren is forced to pack up and head north. She has a feeling about it – which is important since she is a sharer, or one who lives with hyper-empathy, and follows her gut instinct at every move. Believing she has the answer that will rebuild society, a vision for Earthseed, she and a group of travelers walk to northern California to take a chance on a new life. The journey is not without loss.

Normally I’m not interested in dystopian stories. There is enough pain and frustration in our current time. Why borrow troubles from tomorrow? 

Yet, among the noise of stories like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner is a dystopian story that makes you pause. Even Station Eleven, which I loved, has an air of indulgence to it. It’s fiction, all the way, like the Handmaid’s Tale, which was written not long after Octavia Butler started the Earthseed series. So far-fetched it will never be.

Parable of the Sower is deeper than all of these stories. It’s raw and feels so real that I think, yes, we could do terrible things to each other in a state of panic. 

How scary.

You should read it.