Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Kindred By Octavia E. Butler

Octavia E. Butler was introduced to me by my fiance earlier in the school year. He is also an English teacher, and it was the first book he was teaching to his co-taught 9th grade classes. I read about Octavia E. Butler before but I had a stack of books to get through first before I could go on the exciting adventures with her.

BTW, I will probably always have a stack of books to get through. Now it's a different stack of books with her books intermingled. 

SIDE STORY FIRST. This year was the first year I taught 9th grade English. I am a special educator for high school, and I haven't taught my own classes since student teaching. Desperate to teach and have control over how skills are taught, I agreed to teach English 9. Let's just say it has been a rough year. The second rough year out of the 3 years I've almost taught.. but that's another long winded rant for another time. ANYHOO. At first I wanted to teach Romeo and Juliet, but when my baby 9th graders stated that they read that play in 8th grade (seriously. I don't think I would have passed 8th grade if we read Shakespeare. I think that says more about my maturity as an 8th grader than the intelligence of middle schoolers). So, coupled with the fact that they already read it and my general "fuck it" attitude that came with a rough school year, I decided to teach Kindred. 

But first, I had to actually read Kindred

So, I purchased the book off of Amazon (I know. It was infuriating that I couldn't find used books of hers at the book fair. However, I like to think that everyone is so in love with her books that no one wanted to part with them, unlike Anne Rice, whose books are in multiples at the book fair.) 

I finished the book in 2 days. It. Was. Awesome. 

Set in the 1970s, it is about a woman named Dana who suddenly possesses the power to travel back in time. She doesn't know how she acquired this ability and you never find out. Butler doesn't take the time to explain it. She doesn't need too. Dana is a riveting character who finds herself by a body of water where a woman is crying for help. A boy is drowning and she rushes in and saves him. After rescuing the boy, a shot gun is in her face and she is transported back to the present day. 

You come to find out that Dana is only transported when Rufus, the boy that almost drowned in the river, is in life threatening trouble. Rufus is one of Dana's ancestors, but the twist is that while Dana is an African-American, Rufus is a slave owner in the antebellum south. Dana realizes that she is charged with keeping Rufus alive until her ancestor, Hagar is born. 

As a white female, there is an abundance of characters that at least, look like me (which, white privilege.. I guess, yay?) However, there isn't an abundance of well rounded female character that actually has a story arc, is strong but makes mistakes as well. You know, like an actual person. Dana is an actual person and I love Butler for this. 

Normally, I'm into book series because I love to just travel the world that the author created. Kindred is a stand alone book and it does wonderfully as a stand alone book. Butler does a great job of showing the end in sight but makes the reader wonder if Dana will ever survive the ordeal. At the end of this book, I am relieved that there won't be others, simply because of Dana's and her husband, Kevin's, suffering. Kindred's setting is horrifying. I don't want to explore it further. 

Kindred is a great read. It's historical science fiction that zeroes in on the African American experience. YES. PLEASE. 

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