The first science fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity. Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life. During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given: to protect this young slaveholder until he can father her own great-grandmother.
"I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm."
Is that an opening hook or what? Of course you have to keep reading to find out how she lost her arm! This is not a happy book, but it is an important one. There is the sci-fi time traveling element, but more striking to me was Dana's realization of how easy it was to accept the situation when trying to survive. As she first finds herself thrown back in time, she is acting a part to survive, but then alarmingly begins to feel like the past is more home than her present. There is the helplessness of slavery on several levels, the overall black slavery of the time period, her inability to control being jerked back into time, and that she has to keep helping this person who is growing to be such a detestable man, so that she can preserve her own timeline. Such a daunting and terrifying prospect, being thrown back into that nightmarish time when everything that she is, black, independent and educated, is the exact worst combination of things for her to be to get along.
A definite recommend from me, and I will be looking forward to more of Octavia Butler's work. Sadly we lost her in 2006, but as this was my first read by her, I have many more to catch up on.
This was my first read for the 2016 Reading Assignment Challenge #2016HW