Kindred by Octavia Butler

December 30, 2013 Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Time Travel 31

Hi Ho there, Bookworms!

I hope everyone’s holidays were spectacular! I know I enjoyed myself, but now ’tis the season to get back in the swing of things. Shall we?

I spend an inordinate amount of time daydreaming about how I would cope if I were sucked back in time. I blame Diana Gabaldon for my obsession, but the concept is pretty universal. What would you do? My biggest concern is the fact that I wear contacts. I can’t believe that people back in the day had significantly better eyesight that the current population, which makes me wonder how they coped with the blurriness… Of course, I can afford to focus on trivialities like eyesight because that because my ancestor weren’t enslaved simply based on the color of their skin. Slavery was THE WORST.

kindredKindred by Octavia Butler explores the story of a woman named Dana. Dana lives in the 1970s in California with her husband. She’s African American and he’s a white dude, but aside from the occasional bigot with an attitude problem (who are sometimes family members), they’re able to live a fairly nice life… That is, until the day when Dana is mysteriously transported back in time and space and winds up in antebellum Maryland.

Time AND space! How much does that suck? She was totally living in California in the 1970s, but back when it became a state in 1850? Slavery wasn’t legal. Still sucked to be black because civil rights were awful, but at least you weren’t OWNED. Poor Dana is linked to this redheaded kid who lives on a frickin’ plantation in Maryland. She gets yanked back across time and space every time his life is in danger, which for this kid is a LOT. Time travels a lot faster in the past than in the present, so five years in the antebellum South is little more than eight days when coming back to the here and now. Oh yeah. That’s the other part. In order to GET back? Dana has to nearly die herself. Sooo, that sucks.

I really enjoyed this book and the concept of time travel being linked to a specific person. Dana’s struggles as a modern woman encountering slavery are stunning. She comments over and over again on the ease of accepting the most outrageous sorts of dehumanization. It gives a unique perspective to a modern reader who simply cannot fathom how slavery ever existed. I do, however, have one small complaint. The ending was a bit abrupt. I felt that Dana’s “straw that broke the camel’s back” moment should have come earlier, but that’s just a tiny objection intermixed with a whole heap of love. If you have any interest in fiction involving time travel or the antebellum period in history, I highly recommend you check out Kindred by Octavia Butler.

So, Bookworms. If you were to be carried back in time (let’s leave out the SPACE part for the sake of argument), what would be your biggest concern? Spectacles? Pestilence? Lack of deodorant? Tell me!

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31 Responses to “Kindred by Octavia Butler”

  1. Nish

    Oh dear, so many…where would I begin? chamberpots, uggh! Using cloth as sanitary towels, the awful attitudes by men. I would never want to go back in time, not even to satisfy my curiosity. Or maybe just for a couple of hours to go attend a Regency party or something. But never Marie Antoinette’s parties…my neck would hurt like the Dickens with the weight of that hairstyle and I would start to sneeze with all that hair powder.

  2. Cindy

    I think just being around the smell of other people would be way too offensive. That and the poor oral hygiene. And the it wouldn’t be socially acceptable to wear pants as a woman.

    • Words For Worms

      I love pants! I also dislike stenches… Which would be difficult to avoid without regular bathing and deodorant. I also love having all my teeth. Teeth rule.

  3. Ashley Z

    Ohhh this one sounds interesting! I think, being in the midst of the fantastic Outlander series, I’m going to be stuck on some time travel for a while! I think my biggest concern is germs! Lack of medicine and doctors who actually know what they are doing! I like my antibiotics!

  4. Megan M.

    The eyesight thing always concerns me too. Without my glasses I might as well be BLIND. If I end up in circumstances that don’t provide glasses, I’m done for.

  5. Andi (Estella's Revenge)

    You totally nailed it with this:
    She comments over and over again on the ease of accepting the most outrageous sorts of dehumanization.

    YES YES YES! Such a fascinating book. I’m glad you liked this one!

  6. Sarah Says Read

    I would be really worried about my glasses breaking… but my main concern would just be keeping myself armed ALL. THE. TIME. Cause men were not friendly to ladies back in the day (not that they always are now… but still).

    Oh, also. BIRTH CONTROL.

  7. Heather

    This book is so good. I would be concerned about clothing if I somehow got thrown back in time. Heather doesn’t do dresses. I’d have to wear pants and then maybe be chastised for it.

  8. Rhian

    I was trying to decide whether I would miss the Internet or books more and then I saw what Sarah Says Read wrote. Birth control, hell to the yeah!

  9. Monika

    I’ve heard so many great things about this book, must read!
    And umm… I’d miss air conditioning for sure. Which would tie in with having to stomach the nasty odors.

  10. Laurie C

    I read Kindred for the A More Diverse Universe challenge this year, and was glad I finally did! Kindred also brought into full relief how much harder it is to stand up for beliefs (e.g. feminism, civil rights) so far before the time that they come into common thought that you’re just about the only one who thinks they’re possible or desirable.

  11. Allison @ The Book Wheel

    I’m with Renee. Lack of feminine products has always given me pause. Oh, and I’d hate to go to a time and place where books are not accessible. I don’t think I could handle that.

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