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Abby's picture

Family heals history: thoughts on Kindred

I think my distaste for this novel stems primarily from a literary place.  I just can't swallow a text like this and feel satisfied.  To say nothing of Butler's feminism/ethics in the novel, I just need COMPLEXITY (not that simplet things can't be quite complex) and at least some believable dialogue to take a book like this seriously.  And even though I found myself getting strangely invested the fate of poor Dana and Kevin, by the end of the book I felt as though I had been manipulated into caring about characters that might not have been worth caring about.  The ending really didn't do anything for me so I was left a bit ticked off that I had gotten so worked up for nor good pay off!

As far as "deeper" questions are concerned, I still feel the need to offer a shamelessly postive reading of this novel and in particular the centrality of the marriage relationship.  Lydia brings up a great point about questioning the importance of Dana's own existence in the face of so much suffering and injustice that she could possibly help alleviate.  Though I don't think Butler entirely fleshes it out I think she gives a huge amount of importance to the existence of Dana and Kevin and in particular their union as  way to mend the wounds of the past.  The title of the novel, Kindred, is a word that speaks to family.  The whole concept of kinship and kinship through love is a central aspect of the novel.  I think Butler is making a statement about the necessity of the mixing of blood in order to heal a history of bloodshed.

The more I think about it, the most effective scenes in the book are concerned with the body: the violence done to it, it's resilience, it's capacity to withstand, it's capacity to love and repair.  I'm thinking about the potency of the beating scenes and even some  of the moments in the cookhouse.  Sickness is given much descriptive attention as well.  Those moments seem very immediate and tangible in contrast with much of the book.  And throughout all the crazy time traveling Kevin and Dana must carry the weight of their experiences in their bodies.  They can't escape that.  This reminds me of the point brought up in Tuesday's class about the "immutability of the flesh," a gesture towards connecting this novel with disability studies.

 I can't say I'm sorry to see Kindred go...

 But, The Book of Salt = YUM

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