Saturday, December 19, 2015

Butler, Octavia E. (Kindred)

Instead of bemoaning the fact that I hadn't gotten around to reading Butler until this month, I'll just say that there are a lot of books I have never gotten around to reading. It's not about winning some game by reading ALL THE BOOKS. It's about discovering good avenues for finding good books and having a method for getting those in the queue. Butler was just the next one!

On the other hand, damn, Butler is good. I have a love/hate relationship with this book, which I'll detail below.

1. The second our protagonist goes back in time (I'm not giving anything away here, it happens within a few pages of the beginning), I knew what I was in for as a reader. My mind shied away from that, because I knew it would be brutal.
2. I also knew that it was damn important to read it and recognize how a black female writer would portray her ancestors' history. I knew that I couldn't put myself in her shoes, ever, and that she needed to describe what slavery felt like in words that would sink in.
3. And, jeepers, she sure does that. Again, it's brutal. It's also gentle and scared and conflicted and sad. It's definitely not one-note, and that speaks to its power.
4. But because I knew what I was getting into, it was very hard for me to always stay in the story, and not kick myself out and realize the teaching moments. I would not call the novel didactic in any sense, but as a white reader, it is difficult not to realize, constantly, that it is teaching me something. That's very likely not a bad thing.
5. But it can slow down the progress of a novel. I found that happening to me at times, but because Butler's writing is so good, it didn't truly bother me. As if being aware of it made it all okay.

Folks told me to start with this novel of hers, and now that I know a little bit more about her and her writing, that seems smart. This novel delves into the past, while her other novels showcase different futures. Now I can't wait to see what she does with that.

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