Kindred by Octavia E. Butler is one of our school’s considerations for the grade nine de-streamed classroom. These are my thoughts on whether or not we should include this book in our book club selection. To learn more about our Inclusive Classroom Library Project, please click here.
A Brief Plot Outline
Dana Franklin turned 26 on June 9, 1976. She had just moved into a new apartment with her white husband, Kevin. On her birthday, she was magically pulled away to the early 1800s, where she appears in time to save a white boy named Rufus. After only a few minutes, she was ripped back to 1976 again.
Every time Rufus finds himself in a situation that would likely lead to his death, Dana is brought to his side. Stuck for indeterminate moments in antebellum Maryland is difficult for Dana to navigate. She must be cautious because of her skin color.
Rufus is also a wild card. He doesn’t always act rationally, and he isn’t always truthful. His erratic behavior scares Dana — but everything in this slavery-era tale is frightening.
Anyhow, Dana can’t just kill Rufus. They are tied together by several different plot points, which ensures that Dana is a little safer than most enslaved people on the plantation. Rufus is safe from Dana, who has several opportunities to kill him.
Any plot summary doesn’t do this book justice. It is a fantastic read from start to finish. The writing is incredible. The story is incredible. The characters are incredible.
The choice to set Dana’s present in 1976 is interesting. It is the bicentennial of independence in the USA. It symbolizes freedom from Britain as a counterpoint to slavery in the 1800s. It also allows us to see how racism existed in the 1970s, despite the freedoms gained since 1865. It will enable us to reflect on racism today as well.
I could rant all day about how great this book is, but instead, I’ll say that this is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It may even make it to my top ten of all time.
Who Will Like This?
I think that most students will enjoy Kindred. The story is engaging and unique, making this an incredible piece of historical fiction.
Some of the ideas, vocabulary, and writing will be difficult for struggling readers. The pages are crammed with text, which might be irritating or intimidating to reluctant readers. This isn’t usually a complaint that I would have, but the small margins are odd.
I want this one in our collection. I will do everything I can to convince the group that this should be one of our choices. We will have other choices for struggling and reluctant readers, and I think stronger readers will love this book.