Using the techniques of science fiction, Octavia Butler in Kindred tangles in a startlingly unique and imaginative way with some of the most fundamental questions about slavery:
How does one become mentally enslaved? What is the nature of the slave-master relationship? What is the relevance of slavery to modern-day descendants of slaves?
Dana Franklin, a black woman writer, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday in 1976 when she is snatched from her Southern California home and transported to the bank of a river in the antebellum South where she saves the life of a young white child who appears to be drowning. When the child's parents arrive, they begin to beat Dana; when the child's father attempts to shoot her, she is transported back to the twentieth century. The child is Rufus Weylin, whom Dana later discovers is to be the father of one of her ancestors, a child born of Weylin's rape of Alice Greenwood, one of his slaves. Thus, the preservation of his life is critical to Dana's survival. She is transported to the nineteenth century whenever his life is in danger, and she returns to the twentieth century whenever her life is in danger.
She begins to develop an attachment to Rufus; in every life-saving encounter with him, she attempts to teach him not to fall into the racism endemic in his family and southern society. In essence, she tries to save both his body and his soul. But her trips back in time are too infrequent to have any lasting effect on Weylin, who buys into the racist and sexist system that surrounds him. Dana takes an interest in the Weylin slaves, particularly Alice, and uses her literacy and knowledge of modern medical skills to help them. But in order to guarantee her own existence
in the future, she also must encourage Alice to have sex with Rufus. Eventually, Dana too is made a slave and forced into an intimate understanding of the horrors of slavery and her own limitations.
The tension of the oddly symbiotic relationship between Dana and Weylin makes this book a riveting read. By transporting a modern-day African American woman into slavery, Butler vividly brings to life the hardships endured by the slaves. Dana frequently compares her strength and survival skills to those of the enslaved women and finds herself wanting. In the end, Dana finds the strength to break free of her physical slavery and the hold that the past has on her, while ensuring her own survival in the present, but she can never again forget the struggles of her exploited ancestors.
From the Publisher
Octavia Butler is a writer who will be with us for a long, long time, and Kindred is that rare magical artifact . . . the novel one returns to, again and again.—Harlan Ellison
"One cannot finish Kindred without feeling changed. It is a shattering work of art with much to say about love, hate, slavery, and racial dilemmas, then and now." —Sam Frank, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner
"In Kindred, Octavia Butler creates a road for the impossible and a balm for the unbearable. It is everything the literature of science fiction can be." —Walter Mosley
"Truly terrifying . . . A book you'll find hard to put down."—Essence
"Butler's books are exceptional . . . She is a realist, writing the most detailed social criticism and creating some of the most fascinating female characters in the genre . . . real women caught in impossible situations."—Dorothy Allison, Village Voice
"Butler's literary craftsmanship is superb."—Washington Post Book World
"One of the most original, thought-provoking works examining race and identity."—Lynell George, Los Angeles Times
This powerful novel about a modern black woman transported back in time to a slave plantation in the antebellum South is the perfect introduction to Butler's work and perspectives for those not usually enamored of science fiction. . .A harrowing, haunting story." —John Marshall, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"No other work of fantasy or science fiction writings brings the intimate environment of the antebellum South to life better than Octavia E. Butler's Kindred." —Kevin Weston, San Francisco Chronicle
"A celebrated mainstay of college courses in women's studies and black literature and culture; some colleges require it as mandatory freshman reading." —Linell Smith, The Baltimore Sun
"Kindred is as much a novel of psychological horror as it is a novel of science fiction. . .a work of art whose individual accomplishment defies categorization." —Barbara Strickland, The Austin Chronicle
"A startling and engrossing commentary on the complex actuality and continuing heritage of American slavery." —Sherley Anne Williams, Ms.
"Her books are disturbing, unsettling… In a field dominated by white male authors, Butler's African-American feminist perspective is unique, and uniquely suited to reshape the boundaries of the sci-fi genre." —Bill Glass, L. A. Style