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YJ's picture

Reading "Kindred"

I will start off by saying that I had pretty mixed feelings about the novel. While I was almost thoroughly engrossed reading it (this may also be because I've barely read any real novels since coming to college), there were many times in the book that I felt that I couldn't quite buy into the whole sci-fi concept. Though I can understand Butler's resistance to neatly explaining all the odd occurrences, I really, really wanted a better one. Or at least more of a gesture towards a plausible explanation. I will say that I am biased because I generally am not a big fan of sci-fi, though I did think Butler's concept intereting. Her actual execution of it, however, I had more of a problem with. There were definitely times when I felt like I was recieiving a middle school history lesson, like when she's talking about the map, or the treatment of slaves.

I do think, however, that Butler's treatment of the emotional tensions between the characters was much more believable and the more interesting aspect of the book to me. Her relationship with Ron was, of course, the most dramatic instance of this tension. They need each other, and yet she hates him for his racism, his sexism, his cruelty. It must be hard to help somone who raped your ancestor, though of course, if she doesn't, it's her own life she risks in the process. I think what most frustrated me about Ron was that he definitely had the potential to be a better person, but was more comfortable reaping the advantages of his situation as slaveowner and white male. He had all the power, so why give it up?

I think that this book would be an interesting addition to "Katie's Cannon," in that it really pushes the boundaries of both the novel form and examines a critical period in black history. It also examines the power dynamics on many different levels and raises issues still relevant today. Butler's most powerful (for me, anyway) moment in looking at the history, was when Dana questions how much her and Kevin have possibly already bought into the mentality and system that pervaded during antebellum America, how easy it was for them to forget where they really came from. It's hard to say how any of would have fared in that situation and in some respects, in order to survive at all, Dana has to buy into, at least a little bit, the system. I wonder if we're not doing the same now-buying into a system because it's just so easy to.

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