Kindred is a novel by American writer Octavia E. Butler that incorporates time travel and is modeled on slave narratives. First published in 1979, it is still widely popular. It has been frequently chosen as a text for community-wide reading programs and book organizations, as well as being a common choice for high school and college courses.
The book is the first-person account of a young African-American woman writer, Dana, who finds herself being shunted in time between her Los Angeles, California home in 1976 and a pre-Civil War Maryland plantation. There she meets her ancestors: a proud black freewoman and a white planter who has forced her into slavery and concubinage. As Dana's stays in the past become longer, the young woman becomes intimately entangled with the plantation community. She makes hard choices to survive slavery and to ensure her return to her own time.
Kindred explores the dynamics and dilemmas of antebellum slavery from the sensibility of a late 20th-century black woman, who is aware of its legacy in contemporary American society. Through the two interracial couples who form the emotional core of the story, the novel also explores the intersection of power, gender, and race issues, and speculates on the prospects of future egalitarianism.
While most of Butler's work is classified as science fiction, Kindred is considered to cross genre boundaries. It has been classified also as literature or African-American literature. Butler has categorized the work as "a kind of grim fantasy."
About the Author
Octavia Estelle Butler (June 22, 1947 – February 24, 2006) was an American science fiction author. A multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, she became in 1995 the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship.
Butler was born in Pasadena, California. After her father died, she was raised by her widowed mother. Extremely shy as a child, Octavia found an outlet at the library reading fantasy, and in writing. She began writing science fiction as a teenager. She attended community college during the Black Power movement, and while participating in a local writer's workshop was encouraged to attend the Clarion Workshop, which focused on science fiction.
She soon sold her first stories and by the late 1970s had become sufficiently successful as an author that she was able to pursue writing full-time. Her books and short stories drew the favorable attention of the public and awards judges. She also taught writer's workshops, and eventually relocated to Washington state. Butler died of a stroke at the age of 58. Her papers are held in the research collection of the Huntington Library.