My selection this week for Forgotten Books is KINDRED by the late Octavia E. Butler. She was one of the earliest black science fiction writers(Samuel Delaney may have been the first) and possibly the first woman. I read it many years back and it’s stuck with me ever since. It’s technically science fiction, but it’s so much more, the story of a modern black woman who keeps getting drawn back into the past and facing the horrors that her people went through in a shameful period of this country.
Dana lives in 1976 and is married to a white man. Life in this time is as idyllic as it can be under the circumstances. All of a sudden, she is transported to the past, though she doesn’t realize it at first, and there she rescues a young white boy from drowning. She seems stuck in time. learning it’s 1815. Only when her life is threatened does she return to her life in the future.
She’s not there long before back she goes to the past. It’s now a few years later and the boy’s life is in danger again.
She keeps jumping back and forth, gradually learning that the boy is one of her ancestors, she the result of a rape way back then by that “little” boy who grows up to be as brutal as any other slave owner of the time. Her black ancestor of that rape is a free black woman kidnapped into slavery and Dana finds herself working to ensure her very existence.
Her periods in the past are of varying lengths and she has to adapt to survive, going through the same horrors black women of those times endured. Nearly raped, as said earlier, the only way she can be drawn back to the future is if her life is threatened.
One plot thread involved her white husband. As she was starting to fade to the past on one trip, he grabs her and goes with her. They are separated when she returns forward in time and when again the past beckons, a number of years have passed. She is dismayed to find that her progressive husband has adapted quite nicely to being a white man of that era.
It’s a compelling novel with a view of this country’s past by a black woman that wrote science fiction from a black perspective. Highly recommended as well as two other of her novels, Parable of The Sower and Parable of The Talents.