Kindred

Introduction

Kindred is the bestselling novel by American science-fiction author Octavia E. Butler. Part time-travel tale and part slave narrative, it was first published in 1979 and is still widely popular; it is regularly chosen as a text for community-wide reading programs and book organizations, as well as being a common choice for high school and college courses.

The book is the first-person account of a young African-American woman writer, Dana, who finds herself shuttled between her California home in 1976 and a pre-Civil War Maryland plantation. There she meets her ancestors: a spoiled, self-destructive white slave owner and the proud black freewoman he has forced into slavery and concubinage. As her stays in the past become longer, Dana becomes intimately entangled with the plantation community, making hard compromises to survive slavery and to ensure her existence in her own time.

Written to underscore the courageous endurance of people perceived as chattel, Kindred examines the dynamics and dilemmas of antebellum slavery as well as its legacy in present American society. Through the two interracial couples that form the emotional core of the story, the novel also explores the intersection of power, gender, and race issues and speculates on the prospects of future egalitarianism.

While most of Butler's work is classified as science-fiction, Kindred crosses disciplinary boundaries and so is often shelved under literature or African-American literature. Butler has categorized the work as "a kind of grim fantasy."[1]


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