Book Views: Kindred - Octavia Butler


Black History Month may be over, but it's still Women's History Month and this month, we will be reviewing a book by a wonderful Black Women, who has made a name for herself and is ranked as a trailblazer in Black Literacy.

Ms. Octavia Butler debuted her highly acclaimed Sci-Fi novel Kindred in 1979, and since then the novel has become a popular staple in many school literacy programs and families all over the world. The Novel starts off in 1976 with Dana, a Black Women who is the main character and Kevin, who is her husband in a hospital room as Dana's arm had been amputated and now the two are brainstorming how to explain this to the police, before they arrest Kevin for allegedly cutting off his wife's arm. The story then makes a flashback to how Dana and Kevin came to this point.

It all started when Dana and Kevin were moving into their new home in Los Angeles, California on Dana's Twenty-sixth birthday, when all of a sudden she became light-headed, faints and disappeared right in front of Kevin. This is the first time Dana starts to disappear throughout the novel. When Dana gains back to her consciousness she finds herself near a river where she hears and see’s a little red-headed white boy drowning in the water. She quickly helps him and tries to save him, the boy's mother starts accusing Dana of killing her son. Soon after, a man arrives with a gun and starts threatening Dana and within a blink of an eye Dana gets dizzy again and disappears, and reappears in front of Kevin.

That was Dana's first encounter with Rufus Weylin and his family. Just when Dana thought she was home for good, she becomes dizzy again and travels back where she finds Rufus in a bedroom with the drapes on fire. After formally introducing herself to Rufus and discovering that she is in 1815, Maryland, Dana finds out that Rufus set fire to the drapes on purpose because he was mad at his father, Tom Weylin. To help Dana, Rufus directs her to Alice Greenwoods house where she will find shelter; while there Dana realizes that Rufus and Alice are her Ancestors and there must be a reason for her being drawn back in time to them. At Alice's house, Dana witness Alice's Father being beaten for being at her Mother's house without permission, during this a White Man tries to take advantage of her which makes Dana scared and she returns back to Kevin. To Dana, the time away from Kevin felt like hours, but to Kevin, it only felt like minutes, which worries them.

A couple of days go by with Dana not disappearing and during this time Kevin puts his writing skills to work and tries to forge Dana "Free Papers", so when she travels back to 1815, she will be a Free Slave. Just as Dana is about to disappear and travel back to 1815, Kevin grabs onto her and travels back with her. When they appear in Maryland they find Rufus with a broken foot and Nigel, a slave from his plantation was helping him. Kevin quickly jumps into the role of being Dana's Slave Master so no one tries to take advantage of her or to own her as their own, and the only person who actually knows that Dana and Kevin are married is Rufus; who promises to keep it a secret since it was illegal during those times. When Tom Weylin finds Rufus, Dana and Kevin, he welcomes Kevin into his home after learning that he is a writer, hires him to become Rufus' tutor, and agrees to keep Dana in the kitchen doing housework instead of making her a field slave. Unfortunately, Tom caught Dana reading, which is illegal for slaves to be doing and as punishment she gets beaten which then sends her to travel back home to Los Angeles alone without Kevin.

As usual, Dana heads back to 1815 Maryland just in time to save Rufus' life. This time she finds him getting beaten up by Alice's husband Issac for trying to take advantage of Alice. Dana stops him and encourages the couple to run away together. Unfortunately, Alice and Issac get caught and Issac gets sold and heads to Mississippi, while Tom Weylin sells Alice, just for Rufus to buy her back. Rufus makes an agreement with Dana that if she stays and nurses Alice back to health, he will send off her letters to Kevin since he's not in Maryland anymore. Once Alice is nursed back to health, she lashes out towards Dana for not letting her die, and for her losing her husband. During this time years have passed and Dana has yet to see or hear anything from Kevin and starts to get worried because this is the longest she has been in 1815.

Alice becomes Rufus' concubine and ends up finding all the letters Dana gave to him to mail to Kevin, Alice shows Dana and proves to her that Rufus has been lying to her this whole time. Dana becomes enraged and runs away, only for a jealous slave to snitch on her and Tom Weylin captures her and whips her. Tom Weylin finds out that the reason Dana ran away was because Rufus' lied to her about mailing her letters to Kevin and in return Tom sends a letter to Kevin letting him know that Dana is at his plantation. Not too long after sending that letter, Kevin arrived at the plantation to get Dana but was met with hostility from Rufus, as he was jealous of their relationship and didn't want Dana to leave. Just as Dana and Rufus' argument was escalating Dana became dizzy and Kevin grabbed onto her and they reappear back in 1976 in Los Angeles.

Dana and Kevin try their best to forget about 1815 Maryland, but the time there really impacted them, and hard to forget. Just when things were just getting back to normal, Dana was drawn back to Rufus, this time finding him face down in a puddle in the rain. Dana gets help from Nigel to bring Rufus back to the house, where Tom Weylin appoints her to take care of Rufus. She uses the Aspirin she carried from back home with her to help nurse Rufus back to health. Dana realizes that during her time away, Alice and Rufus had children and were expecting another on the way, Dana hoped that she was pregnant with her direct ancestor Hagar. Just has Rufus recovered from his sickness, Tom Weylin has a heart attack and Dana is ordered to save him but fails to. Engulfed with anger, Rufus sends Dana to the fields to work for failing to do her job of saving his father. After being whipped by the overseer, Rufus feels bad for treating Dana how he did, and sends her to take care of his elder mother instead of working in the fields. Tom Weylin's death left the family with a large amount of debt, causing Rufus to start selling some of his slaves in order to pay it off. Dana hated the thought of some of the slaves on the plantation being sold, so she told Rufus, she would help him balance the books. Alice finally gives birth to baby Hagar, which brings joy to Dana, Alice soon later confides in Dana that she plans on running away with her children. Dana convinces her not to run away and in exchange, she could get Rufus to agree for their children to get tutored and get an education. Rufus see’s one of his slaves approach Dana, and in a jealous act of rage, he sells the salve, which then makes Dana angry to the point of her cutting her wrists.

Dana wakes up in LA with Kevin by her side and bandages on her wrists. She explains to Kevin what happened in the last 8 months and why she had to cut her wrists. On the 4th of July, Dana returns back to Maryland where she finds out that Alice had hung herself after she tried to run away when she found out Dana had disappeared again, and after Rufus told her that he sold her children. Dana convinces Rufus to get his children back and to free them so they don't have to experience life as a slave, he at least owed Alice that for everything she's been through and has done for Rufus. Rufus free's his children, but also admits to Dana that he wants her to take the place of Alice in his life. Dana gets mad and storms off to the attic, where Rufus follows her too and tries to rape her and Dana continuously stabs Rufus until he dies. Just like any other pain for traumatic experience Dana experiences, she starts to disappear back home. When Dana opens her eyes, she finds herself stuck in a wall in her home in LA where Rufus was holding on to her.

Verdict: I would give Kindred a 4/5

. The story takes a while to start, but once it gets going you don't want to put it down. It was my first time reading a Sci-Fi Novel, and it surely won't be my last. Even though it was focused around slavery times, it interested to think if people were actually disappearing and reappearing back then how things could be different.
I would recommend this book anyone 10 and up.