Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Kindred by Octavia Butler

 This book appeared on a list recently of the most groundbreaking works of science fiction in the twentieth century. It turns out that I'd read all of them except this one, so I made haste to reserve a copy from my local library.

I think it's highly likely that the only reason this novel was so "groundbreaking" was because it was written by a black woman (in the 70s) about an explicitly black, female protagonist, exploring or deploring, not sure just which, past and present racism.

I have to admit that I'm nearly oblivious to race and racism, apart from being bombarded by accounts of it in the media, having grown up in an area which was overwhelmingly caucasian. I never got the news that I was supposed to judge anyone on the color of their skin; there was no opportunity to do so even if I tried. We did have native americans around, but most of the ones I knew were a) adults and b) customers at my father's business so I treated them just like anyone else in those categories, with courtesy and respect.

I suppose that this novel might have "grabbed" me immediately if I were more sensitive to race, but nothing about either the plot line - garden variety mystical time travel - or the characters, a modern black professional woman and a plantation owner's son whom I assume she's going to teach to treat black people as valuable human beings, not "niggers" got my attention. The writing is pretty much on a par with other stories from that era - sadly dated. We have much better writers to read these days.

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