I had heard a lot about Octavia Butler and I knew how much of a pioneer she is in the field of fantasy/sci-fi for black authors. But I’m also not much into reading classics and never thought I would be diving into her work. But, we chose Kindred as the March BOTM for our Stars and Sorcery book club and I decided to pick up the graphic novel adaptation. I don’t know exactly what I’m supposed to feel after reading this but I know I’m better off for having had this experience and the insight into this wonderful author’s work.
This book really is a painful look at slavery and it’s lasting effects. Dana is a young, independent, modern woman but we see how easily she starts getting used to the oppression and horrific conditions in Antebellum south because her mind is on survival. Her whole family’s existence depends on her keeping Rufus alive, but that also means she has to tolerate his aggression, sexual violence and inhumane treatment of the slaves – all of which go against her own beliefs. This fight between her survival and her conscience is depicted in a very thoughtful manner but the abuses she or anyone else endures is never whitewashed. The author also shows us that just because the practice of slavery was abolished, it didn’t really end. It’s affects have lasted for generations (even till date) which is clearly reflected in the family’s reactions to Dana and Kevin’s interracial marriage. There is also a great parallel between the menial jobs that Dana has to work in the 70s to keep food on the table to the kind of jobs she is expecting to perform on the plantation.
The art style in this graphic novel is very unlike anything I’ve ever read before and it took sometime for me to acclimatize to the characters, but I think it suited the story. The illustrator uses a different color scheme to reflect the past vs the present and that definitely worked in the book’s favor. But I think the best (and probably the worst too) part of this adaptation was seeing the horrific depiction of slavery on page – the whippings, beatings and rapes – it’s very painful to read and I had to take breaks in between, but it also makes this book and the story feel much more real.
I think this is an important book to read and I would definitely recommend it to anyone, but just be aware of the graphic content. I also think this graphic novel is probably a good first foray into Octavia Butler’s work – this will definitely pique your interest and maybe help in your deep dive into the author’s other prolific works. I for sure am interested in trying to read the original Kindred sometime, hopefully soon.