Kindred, first published in 1979, is widely considered a groundbreaking Science Fiction novel that boldly addresses the American history of racism and slavery. The novel opens in 1976 where we meet Dana, an African-American woman married to a white man, Kevin. Dana suddenly begins to experience bouts of time travel to 1819 to a slave-owning Maryland plantation. We soon learn that Dana’s time travel relates to the life-threatening adventures of a young white boy, Rufus, the plantation’s owner. Rufus is Dana’s ancestor and she is being pulled through time to save him. But, of course, looking over Rufus puts her own life in grave danger. The premise ingeniously allows Butler to explore the deplorable practices of our nation’s past with the sensibilities of a modern couple. It is only a small spoiler to say that Kevin travels back in time with Dana in an effort to protect her and gives the narrative the dual black and white perspective.
Kindred sat on my kindle waiting to be read for a while. As it so often happens, I get easily pulled away from backlist reading by the shiniest, newest, buzziest books out there. Peeking at my daughter’s reading list for her lit class this year, I saw this one front and center and decided to read it, too. I love discussing books with everyone, and it’s especially fun to discuss books with my daughter. I am always amazed by her insight and thoughtfulness and talking books gives me an interesting look at her lens. Based on our discussion, I think the kids are gonna be alright.