Monday, October 09, 2006


by Octavia E. Butler
Dana, a modern-day woman, finds herself repeatedly slipping back in time to save the life of one of her ancestors. No explanation is made of the time-travelling, it just happens. And it's a bad thing, because Dana is black, and her ancestor, Rufus, is the white son of a Maryland slaveholder in 1815. Butler never calls this book science fiction; there's "absolutely no science in it," as she once said. But if it's a fantasy, it is, for the most part, horrifyingly realistic. Dana is not a passive observer; she has been "called back" to save a life, and she knows her own existence depends on it. Out of necessity, she gets to know Rufus, his parents, and the slaves on the plantation. And as she gets stuck there for longer periods of time, she finds her choices dwindling until she herself is a slave. Escape, even for someone with her knowledge of the future, is next to impossible. The book is full of complex relationships: the mixture of dependance and revulsion between Dana and Rufus, and the similar feelings between the slaves and their master. Kindred makes history as raw and painful as the multiple injuries Dana brings home from her journeys.

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