Kindred

Kindred - CoverKindred by Octavia Butler (1979)

Summary

Dana, a young black woman from the 1970’s, gets spontaneously thrust back in time to the slave society of the early 1800’s. She meets her ancestors (both white and black), endures life as a slave, and even time travels a couple times with her white husband (whom they have to pretend is her owner).

Review

I thought this novel about Dana’s dual life as a modern woman and as a slave was brilliant. She struggles with trying to change attitudes toward slavery while also ensuring that her lineage stays intact, fearing she might cease to exist.

The time travel mechanic is never explained, but that’s because it’s not what the book is really about. Kindred brings slavery to life through the eyes of a modern protagonist, making it feel present instead of something that happened a long time ago. It deals with issues of both race and gender as well as survival, relationships, and freedom.

Everyone should read this book.

You might like this book if you like…

  • The antebellum South
  • Racial & gender issues
  • Time travel
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Twelve Years a Slave

Summary

Twelve Years a SlaveTwelve Years a Slave is a memoir by Solomon Northup, a free-born black man from New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. For 12 years, Northup worked on cotton and sugarcane plantations in Louisiana before he was ultimately rescued and able to go home to his wife and children.

I can speak of Slavery only so far as it came under my own observation — only so far as I have known and experienced it in my own person. My object is, to give a candid and truthful statement of facts: to repeat the story of my life, without exaggeration, leaving it for others to determine, whether even the pages of fiction present a picture of more cruel wrong or a severer bondage.

Review

Twelve Years a Slave is truly a remarkable narrative and I was blown away by the amount of detail it contained. Solomon Northup provided fascinating and painful insight into what slave life was like.

So we passed, hand-cuffed and in silence, through the streets of Washington — through the Capital of a nation, whose theory of government, we were told, rests on the foundation of man’s inalienable right to life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness.

I read the enhanced edition by Sue Eakin, who spent her life researching Solomon Northup’s story. When she was twelve, she read a copy of the book, which had disappeared into obscurity by then. Eakin dedicated her life to researching Solomon Northup’s story and she breathed life into it again by republishing in 1968, annotated with her extensive research notes.

Movie

Solomun Northup’s story was turned into a movie, 12 Years a Slave, which received the Academy Award for Best Picture earlier this month.

Obviously, there are some deviations from the book in the movie (like omitting Northup’s escape from Tibeats through the swamp), but, for the most part, it stays very true to the book, even quoting some of it verbatim. Definitely worth seeing.