What We’re Reading: Kindred

Rating: 5 out of 5

Written in 1979, Kindred by Octavia Butler has been on my bookshelf for at least a year without me so much as reading the table of contents.

I’d bought it at the suggestion of some writer friends who offered it as a title written by and featuring black people. The search led me to Butler as an author and Kindred as the first book to read from her long list of award winning novels.

The story of Kindred, is a massive trigger warning for people of color, descendants of slavery and oppression as well as women who’ve survived sexual assault as well as various forms of domestic abuse.

The most difficult parts of the book were the parts of the story that gave it it’s edge. A glimpse at the degradation experienced as a slave in the antebellum South.

As Dana traveled back and forth through space and time I too went on a journey of self discovery, though no stranger to the tales of slavery, this particular story had the added insult of having a free woman from the modern world transported to the past and told she had to act the part. In a time where slavery is a not so distant memory and injustice is an everyday publicized occurrence the similarities of the past and the present are undeniable.

I could’ve been Dana, transported from my Philadelphia home in 2018 to 1815 where my complexion merely meant I probably wouldn’t work out in the fields. I’m not sure if I could’ve rescued Rufus.

The title Kindred, could speak to the two couples most noted in the book. The juxtaposition between Rufus and Alice & Kevin and Dana is a connection I couldn’t quite explain.

During the reign of slavery, slaves weren’t able to marry, had no rights and weren’t even seen as people. Rufus exploited this in his pursuits to woo, abuse and eventually drive Alice a formerly free woman to kill herself. Though Rufus claimed to love Alice his actions showed he could only love her as much as he could any other property he possessed.

A stark contrast from the 70s, marrying outside of your race wasn’t common but occurred. Kevin waited 5 years for Dana and she returned to endure humiliation for him.

I personally don’t feel the title speaks to the story at all. I wouldn’t even say that Dana and Rufus are kindred spirits, their only connection being a bloodline established out of rape and systematic torture. Usually when thinking of the word, it elicits thoughts of fate and a connection that surpasses all boundaries.

This particular connection was to a place, time and person contradictory to the life Dana had built for herself. Beyond transcending time to save his own skin, Rufus Weylin exhibited none of the qualities of a kindred spirit.

It would be easy to create stereotypical characters and in some way Butler, manipulated stereotypes to tell her story however, I would say that Butler was able to cultivate well rounded life-like characters that I connected with and felt for. Dana for me was the most relatable. I am a black woman living in the modern era, it was as if I had been transported into the pass and as she was stripped of each layer of the modern world in a way so was I. There were times I felt physically sick from reading about her ordeal but I’m happy for having read it.

Octavia Butler must have a great mind to consider the conundrum she beset Dana. Without Rufus she would cease to exist, but how long is she to endure to ensure her own safety? She also forms a bind with the boy, once hoping to influence him for the better he evolves into the beast she dreaded despite her presence. I felt myself densely waiting on the arrival of her first descendant just so she could go home and never return.

Dana and Kevin are a biracial couple living in 1978 California at a time when race relations were tense but facing process. Their immediate transport to the antebellum South where white men used black slave women as bed warmers and breeders is a 180 degree switch from what they’re used to. Rufus, his parents and even the slaves had simply been playing the roles taught to them by society as a whole.

A part of the story I didn’t care for is the loss of her arm and the explanation behind it. Call me overly sympathetic to Dana’s plight but hadn’t she gone through enough? To then say that Butler, couldn’t have let her return completely, that some part of her had to remain in the past.

Personally, I feel by the end of the book that Dana had been altered enough and choosing to leave her with both arms wouldn’t have hurt. She’d been overworked, slapped, punched, kicked, whipped and had at one point slit her own wrists. Dana will forever be physically and psychologically altered.

I suppose one would have to wonder how Rufus survived without Dana prior to her birth, but I guess time paradoxes would suggest that she was always the one who kept him alive.

With more than 450,000 copies in print I can see why Kindred comes so highly recommended. The Book itself is a healthy blend of genres spanning across science fiction, fantasy, neo-slave narratives and historical fiction.

Kindred made me openly cry and wanna jump into the book and throttle the characters. I happily give this one a 5 out of 5.

Have You Read Kindred? What did you think? Let me Know in the Comments Below!


You can keep up with me, Noel Bleu and Blu Moon Fiction on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, GoodReads and Pinterest, or Shoot me an email @ BluMoonFiction@gmail.com

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Featured Author – Octavia Butler


“Why aren’t there more SF Black writers? There aren’t because there aren’t. What we don’t see, we assume can’t be. What a destructive assumption.” Octavia E. Butler, in “Octavia E. Butler: Telling My Stories.


I myself discovered this author because I was asking the same exact question. I am a black woman and a writer of fantasy. Yet, when I go to conferences or awards ceremonies for fantasy the genre I write, I cannot find many like me.


I’ve met wonderful friends not of color who are amazing fantasy writers. But clearly I’m not the only one. So a few Google searches later brought me a list of authors. Octavia Butler was at the top of that list.


A career that spanned 36 years, Ms. Butler has been awarded both the Hugo and Nebula awards as well as being the 1995 recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.


It started in the culturally blended community of Pasadena, CA. Her mother a housemaid, she’d witnessed firsthand racial inequalities between her mother’s employers and the staff.


A shy girl she sought solace in books and sci-fi magazines at her local library. Her writing career truly began in 1974 with the Seed to Harvest series. 




At age 13, her well-intentioned aunt Hazel conveyed the realities of segregation by telling her, “Honey … Negroes can’t be writers” Butler persevered in her desire to publish a story anyway, even asking her junior high school science teacher, Mr. Pfaff, to type the first manuscript she submitted to a science fiction magazine.


Her first work published was Crossover in the 1971 Clarion Workshop anthology. She also sold the short story Childfinder to Harlan Ellison for the anthology The Last Dangerous Visions.


“I thought I was on my way as a writer,” Butler recalled in her short fiction collection Bloodchild and Other Stories. “In fact, I had five more years of rejection slips and horrible little jobs ahead of me before I sold another word.”


I’d been advised that the best of her collection is Kindred. I am owner of a copy and it has proven to be one of her most awarded novels.


Kindred, is all about Dana, an African-American woman transported from 1976 Los Angeles to early nineteenth century Maryland. She meets her ancestors: Rufus, a white slaveholder, and Alice, a black freewoman forced into slavery later in life.

I won’t spoil it for you but there’s a reason why she’s so well known.


In 2006 Butler was found outside her home after years of struggling with depression possibly caused by medications for hypertension, she had a stroke.


Prior to her death she’d continued writing despite struggling with writer’s block and taught at Clarion’s Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop regularly. In 2005, she was inducted into Chicago State University’s International Black Writers Hall of Fame.



What’s your favorite Octavia Butler novel?