Kindred by Octavia Butler

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“I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery…”

Kindred is a 1979 novel by Octavia Butler (1947-2006), an African American science fiction author. The story focuses on Dana, the main character, who is forced to travel through time between her home in the 1970s in Southern California and the early 1800s on a slave plantation in rural Maryland. Dana soon learns that she must ensure the survival of her ancestors and in doing so finds out that she must protect one of her slave owners, Rufus, who she watches grow from a naïve child struggling to develop his independent conscience into a cruel slave master. Even though their relationship is parasitic and defined by exploitation, they also are dependent on each other in this alternative universe. Dana and others who are enslaved fight to find ways to reclaim any bit of humanity and possible freedom that they can in the plantation South.

The story raises many provocative questions: What has fundamentally changed between those time periods and what has not? What forms of domination have people in this society been trained to accept? How do the wounds of the past impact people in society today? Is it enough, or even possible, to “run away” to freedom in a system defined by slavery?

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