Kindred Octavia Butler
Octavia Butler • June 22, 1947-Feb. 24, 2006 • Dyslexic • Born in CA • Wrote Kindred in response to reading a bad sci-fi movie, Devil Girl from Mars • Died after falling and striking her head at age 58
Themes (very important!) • Trauma and historical memory • Power • Education • Dichotomies (personal/political, husband/wife, master/servant, black/white, past/present) • Sex and gender • White culture • Black Community • Human interdependence • Home • Survival • Media’s distortion of reality
Inspiration for writing the novel/Why the themes are important • When I got into … Pasadena City College, the … the Black Power Movement, was really underway with the young people, and I heard some remarks from a young man who was the same age I was but who had apparently never made the connection with what his parents did to keep him alive. He was still blaming them for their humility and their acceptance of disgusting behavior on the part of employers and other people. He said, "I'd like to kill all these old people who have been holding us back for so long. But I can't because I'd have to start with my own parents."
When he said us he meant black people, and when he said old people he meant older black people. That was actually the germ of the idea for Kindred (1979). I've carried that comment with me for thirty years. He felt so strongly ashamed of what the older generation had to do, without really putting it into the context of being necessary for not only their lives but his as well. I wanted to take a character… back in time to some of the things that our ancestors had to go through, and see if that character survived so very well with the knowledge of the present in her head. [see Kindred p. 51]
And I thought about my mother, because she used to take me to work with her when she couldn't get a baby sitter and I was too young to be left alone, and I saw her going in the back door, and I saw people saying things to her that she didn't like but couldn't respond to. I heard people say in her hearing, 'Well, I don't really like colored people.' And she kept working, and she put me through school, she bought her house – all the stuff she did. I realized that he didn't understand what heroism was. That's what I want to write about: when you are aware of what it means to be an adult and what choices you have to make, the fact that maybe you're afraid, but you still have to act.'‘ • Charles H. Rowell - An Interview with Octavia E. Butler - Callaloo 20:1
Actually, I began with a man as main character, but I couldn't go on using the male main character, because I couldn't realistically keep him alive. So many things that he did would have been likely to get him killed … The female main character, who might be equally dangerous, would not be perceived so. She might be beaten, she might be abused, but she probably wouldn't be killed and that's the way I wrote it. She was beaten and abused, but she was not killed. That sexism, in a sense, worked in her favor. … But, anyway, that's a long-winded answer. And that's how I came to write Kindred.”
Video on Modern Slavery • http://www.teleread.org/blind/2006/04/octavia-butler.html • Do you think racial prejudice still exists? In what ways? Do other types of prejudice exist? Does slavery still exist? Are there big companies you know of that exploit this? As you read, pay close attention to Butler’s views…does she believe that the black/white power struggle has been left in the past?