Thursday, March 23, 2006

Aaron's Book of the Week :: Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

KindredWe complete our tribute to Octavia E. Butler with the hardcover first edition of Kindred (1979, cover art by Larry Schwinger). I've bemoaned the fact that Octavia Butler was underappreciated due to the mainstream's disdain of science fiction, but Kindred is an exception. Over the years, Kindred has come to receive significant attention outside the science fiction genre, and is now required reading in many black history courses. Kindred tells of a modern black woman who travels back in time to the antebellum South and encounters her ancestors, one of whom is a white slave-owner. It is Butler's novel most overtly informed by her experiences as an African-American girl, watching her widowed mother work as a maid to support her family, entering houses through the back door, politely suffering employers' bigoted comments about "colored people."

Kindred was Butler's fourth novel but her first breakthrough success, and was thus published before she had developed much of a fan base. Because of that, and because Kindred has become famous both inside and outside the science fiction genre, the first edition is very rare. This book is one of two recent prize additions to my collection. The other will be next week's Book of the Week.

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