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In 1976, Dana and her husband Kevin are moving into their new home. Dana is unpacking boxes; then she’s overcome by dizziness and nausea and finds herself watching a little boy drown in a river. Dana acts on instinct and saves the boy. His parents seem angry rather than thankful and slowly but surely Dana realizes that she’s been thrust back in time to the antebellum South of 1816. The boy she’s just saved is her ancestor, Rufus Weylin, and this is perhaps this biggest shock to Dana—because Rufus is the white son of a white slave owner, and Dana is a black woman raised in the future of the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power. When Dana returns to 1976 only to be yanked back to the past again a few days later, she realizes she’s being called to, in a way, by Rufus whenever his life is in danger. Dana can’t control how long she stays in the past; only fear of her own life can send her back. At first, it’s easy to be afraid of life as a slave—violence is an appallingly consistent part of life on the Weylin plantation. Dana knows she has to keep Rufus alive until he can father the next generation of their family in order to ensure her own birth in the future. But Rufus seems likely to inherit all the brutal racism and cruelty inherent in his day, and Dana faces some intensely difficult choices. Only an author as purposeful as Octavia E. Butler could so elegantly ask her readers to “See how easily slaves are made?” but that is precisely what Kindred challenges. Kindred features Butler’s customary and realistic treatment of the complicated and complex nuances of race and gender. It presents a strong and forceful female character dealing with impossible circumstances. It asks difficult questions and shows painful truths. None of these things are easy to do, but Kindred is an blend of historical fiction, science fiction, and social commentary that is a force to be reckoned with.
posted Dec 30, 2009 at 3:58PM
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