Kindred is not always kind

ENGL 4110 “Commonplace Book” Entry 4

I had never wondered what it would be like to go back in time to my ancestors’ time until I read Octavia Butler’s Kindred.

The novel outlines the story of a Black woman named Dana who is called back in time (and to the Antebellum-era south) every time her white ancestor has a near-death experience. In that time, her identity and race put her in danger of slavery, violence, and even death…and it’s only about 150 years prior.

I’m aware that I have a lot of privilege that accompanies my white skin — but the ability to safely travel back in time is not a privilege I considered before reading Kindred.

The kicker of the whole story is that the ancestor Dana is seemingly responsible for is a terrible person. Rufus may be ‘kindred,’ but his relations to Dana are the product of rape, coercion, and violence.

With this framework, it’s clear that Butler’s choice of title was purposeful but as somewhat ironic — she seems to communicate that kindred is not a choice, and therefore, not always a good and kind thing.


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