Scott Hanselman

Book Review - Kindred by Octavia Butler

May 23, '06 Comments [0] Posted in Reviews | Z
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I'm going to be posting a number of book reviews this week as I used a chunk of the weekend while Z slept to catch up on my reading. Some'll be technical, some not.

I've just finished a haunting book called kindred by the amazing and prolific Octavia Butler. This is the 25th anniversary edition from 2004 - this book was written in 1979.

The premise is that Dana, a modern Black woman, is called back to the early 19th century to save the life of a white ancestor. In the present her husband is White and at one point is pulled back with her. The dynamics of their relationship change dramatically as it is assumed that she is a recently enslaved freewoman from the North travelling with her owner (in fact her husband.)

Their relationship is tested as they are forced to live dramatically different lives. Most painfully to watch is how quickly and believably they slip into their expected roles, that of slave and slave owner. As an interracial couple they've typically swept awareness of their differing ethnicities under the rug, but those differences and associated race memories are pulled to the forefront when the extraordinary circumstances drag on.

There are sadly few books to compare this to, although the language has similar texture to that found in The Intuitionist. (Another racial allegory that I recommend, using science fiction and alternate reality to explore difficult questions.)

I would suggest this book to nearly anyone, but especially young people over 15-16 of any race, as long as a parent, mentor or book group that is well-versed in the time period can help some of the deeper nuances. I really would have enjoyed teaching this book at the high-school level either for Social Studies, History or English Literature. I took a number of Black Studies classes in college, did some teaching/tutoring, and looked into the PSU Black Studies major when computers found me. Perhaps one day I will teach again.

This is a fantastically powerful book and well worth the read. My next Octavia Bulter book will be Dawn.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.