Kindred by Octavia E. Butler



I remember the astonished fear I felt when I read Primo Levi in High-school and realized how easily one can go along with dehumanization in order to save his life. As much as we humans like hiding behind false truths, we’re merely trying to go easy on ourselves and to maintain our breakable feeling of control. We don’t control shit. From the moment I read Holocaust accounts, I’ve met a lot of people assuring me that these days wouldn’t ever happen again because people would fight harder and longer. Ha. This fallacious argument first forgets that it already happened again, and secondly it dismisses way too quickly how readily people accept awful behaviors if they become the norm. We can hate ourselves for that, but I’m not sure what we’re trying to achieve when we forget that.  There will always be people who fight, but they’ll often be fewer than those who silently accept or participates in the dehumanization. Now how can we change that is the real question.

The ease. Us, the children… I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.

This is what makes Kindred both so interesting and horrifying : Dana, a 25 years old black woman, is transported from 1976 to 1815 whenever her ancestor – Rufus – needs her to stay alive, straight into the plantation his father runs. What follows is an unflinching and very important look at what slavery really was and how its mechanisms worked, without, for once (thank you thank you), an ounce of romanticization, but rather a complex but unforgiving portrayal of what many books would sell out as a Good Master (ugh). This is what the world needs. I often mention my students in my reviews, but honestly, it’s because I often feel that we ask more of children than we do of fucking adults. At ten, they’re able to understand that their intend doesn’t mean anything if they hurt someone : they still have to be held accountable. The world needs to hear that as white people, we might not intend to comfort and sustain white supremacy, yet every time we buy into some romanticized version of slavery, we do. A slaver who falls in love with one of his slaves is still very much a monster in my book. So, what? The guy has feelings? SO WHAT? He’ll still buy and sell people as if they were furniture. He’ll still make them work, hurt them, for his sole gain. What Kindred shows the reader is that no matter how easily we could feel sorry for said slaver – as Dana sometimes does – it doesn’t change a thing. It should never change a thing.

“Rufus had caused her trouble, and now he had been rewarded for it. It made no sense. No matter how kindly he treated her now that he had destroyed her, it made no sense.”

Served with a compelling and frightening plot, Kindred won’t let you look away and will capture your all being until the very last page – if that’s not the mark of great books, what is? This novel is absolutely terrifying and it doesn’t need any zombies to be : people are the monsters. White people are, and the fact that it actually happened in history makes it even more chilling. More, if we look at History as a whole, slavery has stopped in the US such a short time ago. And if Kindred reminds us of something that we should have never forgotten, it’s that how easily we come to adapt to – or make the best of, how horrible that can sound – such an horrendous system. In the end, we humans want to live. This ongoing thirst might  make us able to do great things, but it also makes it harder for us to fight.

Repressive societies always seemed to understand the danger of “wrong” ideas.

I wish this novel would be more famous worldwide, because if it’s apparently studied in High-school in the US, I had never heard of it before last year – as I found, it was translated into French in the 2000s but by such an unknown publisher, it’s a shame. When are we starting to translate – and promote – these important books rather than the last NA by Colleen Hoover? Really? As the first science-fiction novel published by a black woman, and as a fucking amazing book that will linger in my mind for so long, because I’m neither able to forget these complex and fascinating characters nor the message they carry, I’d say the world should wake the fuck up and read this book. Now.

TW – Slavery, Rape & Attempted Rape, Graphic Violence, Use of several ableist slurs (crazy, retarded)


4 responses to “Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

  1. Excellent review. I read this book a couple of years ago before I started blogging, and I’m so glad to see a review for it!
    I’m working on a new book blog series called “Resist!” and I’m going to be featuring other bloggers who write about important issues. Like yourself, I think these books need to be talked about more. I’d love to be able to share some of your reviews once I get things going! Please see my intro post for the series.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been seeing this book around lately and I want to read it soon. It sounds amazing and so far I’ve only heard good things. Great review, I love the quotes!

    Liked by 1 person

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