Review: Kindred – Octavia E. Butler

Book cover: Dana looks down at a few small houses

Last month was Black History Month and Kindred is one of the two books written by African American authors that I had decided to read.

Dana is suddenly transported into the past and into a different state. She has to save a drowning white boy. She keeps being transported back into the past, where there is still slavery in the US.

This book is #ownvoices.

The Good

This book was published in 1979, so going in, I was sure it was going to have really problematic and harmful representations of slavery and black people. It didn’t. I’m not a fan of master-slave romances (nor of romances with a racist partner), so I was surprised and impressed by the tackling of this issue.

I know a lot of people who say that they would have been different and fought the system, if they had lived in a different time period (a keyword mentioned in the book: moral superiority). The story analyses this idea and also illustrates why many people dealt with their life the way they did in the Antebellum period. It doesn’t gloss over the harsh reality that slaves were encountering everyday.

I found the story between Dana and her husband great, as it allowed the reader to get the opinion of a white person and a black person. Sometimes people who are not affected by discrimination, don’t understand the issues that well and this divide was illustrated in the book.

There were so many small details in the book, which is where I think one can recognise the benefit of an #ownvoices author. For example: why Biblical names were given to some of the children and a black person’s opinion on Gone With The Wind and Robinson Crusoe.

The Bad

There were some ableist slurs, such as ‘retarded’ and ‘crazy’.

All in all

This book was a big surprise for me. I wasn’t expect such good quality in a book written in the 70’s, and this taught me not to judge a book by the publishing date. The combination of time traveling and analysing racism in different time periods was executed perfectly. Huge recommendation!

Trigger warnings: rape, physical abuse, ableism, racism, n-word

4 stars

Kindred – have you read it, will you read it? What do you think of diversity representation in old books?


4 thoughts on “Review: Kindred – Octavia E. Butler

  1. I recently read Fledgling by the same author and it was surprisingly powerful (although there were some aspects I didn’t like). A Fiction Friday review will be up sometime in the next few weeks. Glad to hear Kindred is so good. I wasn’t drawn to the premise, but maybe I should add it to my TBR after all.


  2. I love this book; I teach this book. Butler was raised by her mother and maternal grandmother, who was born a slave and told her stories. Crazy stuff, but I think definitely is part of how she created such a detailed, realistic narrative.


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