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A Review of Octavia Butler's Kindred

By Kayleigh Kearsley

Several of the books that I read for my English classes over the years used language that increased my vocabulary or was somewhat challenging to parse through. Consequently, when I read a book that was written in relatively simply language, I was rather intrigued. This book was Octavia Butler’s Kindred, a speculative fiction novel. In this book, the protagonist, Dana, travels back in time to the antebellum south and meets her ancestors, one of whom is a slave owner

while the other is a slave. As an African American, Dana had to fit in with the lifestyle of the time and play the part of a slave. The simple language used to tell the story has an impactful effect, as the horror and brutal existence of slavery is so carefully placed on display, without any frivolous words to hide it, that it permanently altered my perception of the world.

Before reading this book, I knew that slaves were treated terribly. I had read stories of individuals who were forced to labor as slaves, and I had shed tears over the tragic accounts of their lives. What I hadn’t comprehended, however, was just how terrible the day-to-day treatment and cruelty was. Through her novel, Butler showed me just how awful and cruel slavery is. It was tragic to read the account of slaves being whipped, beaten, and sexually assaulted, and it made the stories that I had previously discovered become much more real and horrific. Before I understood what happened to the slaves, but after reading Butler’s book, I was able to catch a glimpse of what it would have been like to actually live like a slave, and it was terrifyingly violent. I realized that I had never allowed myself to fully imagine just how terrible it would have been to be a slave, but with the simple, yet beautiful, language in Kindred, I was able to do so.

After reading this book, I would definitely recommend it to all mature audiences. It is an amazing story that should be read; because of the violence, however, it is more suitable for mature audiences who are open to understanding a significant portion of our history. This remarkable story will transport readers into the antebellum south and will show, rather than tell, them just how atrocious and problematic slavery is by allowing them to witness the violent and cruel treatment the protagonist experiences firsthand. It is one of the most memorable and impactful books that I have ever had the opportunity to read and should be widely circulated and read by individuals across the globe.

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