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Kindred

By: Octavia E. Butler
Narrated by: Kim Staunton
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Summary

The first science-fiction written by a Black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of African-American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity. 

Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning White boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life. 

During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she's been given: to protect this young slaveholder until he can father her own great-grandmother. 

Author Octavia E. Butler skilfully juxtaposes the serious issues of slavery, human rights, and racial prejudice with an exciting science-fiction, romance, and historical adventure. Kim Staunton's narrative talent magically transforms the listener's earphones into an audio time machine.

©2000 Octavia Butler (P)2000 Recorded Books, LLC

Critic reviews

"[ Kindred] is a shattering work of art with much to say about love, hate, slavery and racial dilemmas, then and now." ( Los Angeles Herald Examiner)
"Truly terrifying." ( Essence)
"Butler's literary craftsmanship is superb." ( The Washington Post Book World)

What listeners say about Kindred

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Horror Story

Slavery in America was cruel and vicious. All of that is in this book; with beatings, rape, murder, stabbing, children sold away from their mother, hanging, brutal work; and more. The idea is that Dana can travel in time, so goes back and forth between living in contemporary New York to being a slave in the deep south in the 1800's. If you can imagine the horrors, you do not need to read this. There is nothing educational, informative, or even challenging about it, just horror. The Narrator here has rather a 'hard-done-by' voice and always sounds awful even on the rare occasions when nothing terrible is going on.

I thought maybe this book would offer insights about human perceptions of one another, or provide insight into slavery from a slave's perspective. But the time travel idea means that the character Dana is not really a slave, just put upon, and only there for self interested reasons, to save her ancestors.

I am not going to listen to any more, leaving it unfinished.

4 people found this helpful

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Completely compelling account of slavery

If you're not black - that's a lot of us - and you've never been a slave - that's most of us; this story puts you right in the middle of American slavery where we can touch the edges of experiencing it ourselves. As you might expect from Butler, this is science fiction but without lasers, phasers, or malevolent AI. Instead it tells the story of slavery through family as the protagonist finds herself pulled back in time from 1976 to antebellum Maryland in the US; a modern black woman with rights and expectations suddenly stripped of these as she is drawn to the aid of a white ancestor with his own rights and expectations. Thrown back and forth through time, answering his unknowing calls for help and being released when each threat is resolved, she spends sometimes minutes sometimes months in a world where she can be whipped for looking at someone the wrong way. The story is generational, her own survival dependent on that of the white man brought up to own, use, and trade in slaves.

3 people found this helpful

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I am so glad I listened to goodreads on this.

this was amazing. simply staggering. I feel sorry for everyone in this book, the writing is powerful and clever, simple and clear.

3 people found this helpful

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A tough listen

This is a remarkable book and it is obviously where Audrey Niffinger sourced the idea for Time Travellers Wife.
The main character is uncontrollably sent back and forth through time from 1970 to the American south during the slave trade era.
Thus far so good, a great idea, but what happens to her there is so brutal at times, that I had to keep playing the book forward to miss the graphic violence.
I ended up missing some of the plot because of this, and lost momentum.
Sadly I didnt make it to the end.
No doubt an important book, but deeply upsetting and should carry a trigger warning and I didn’t get my moneys worth.

2 people found this helpful

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Gripping

This is obviously a classic sci-fi novel, so I'm sure people will be well aware of its importance in general (This is a really good general review of the book: http://brownfemipower.com/archives/329) . But this is also a fantastic reading, I was on tenterhooks from beginning to end...

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wow!

I loved this book, found myself driving around when nearly home so I could continue to listen, never wanted it to end.

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  • L
  • 02-05-18

One of my favourites

This book might be one of my favourites now! Kim Staunton is a fantastic narrator.

It's a challenging book, making the reader/listener sympathise with characters you might not otherwise want to, and really think about why Butler is presenting situations the way she does. The main character was great - full of agency, action and emotion, and the supporting cast was equally compelling. I will probably relisten to this book some time soon.

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Powerful and challenging

A solid and nuanced performance, and a book that grips you, even when it goes to the most challenging places a human narrative can go. There's no simple moralising, no easy-to-swallow hero's struggle, just an uncomfortably honest and sometimes brutal exploration of what having complete social power over another human being means. The fantastical framing isn't wasted either, it forms a subtle symbolism and a gentle entry point for the events of the book, without ever overwhelming the human drama or dulling the impact of the story. Needs to be listened to!!

1 person found this helpful

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Interesting and different

A bizarre look back into slavery times from a time jumping protagonist.. very well written

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Powerful and relevant

Brilliant and compelling genre-defying storytelling, weaving themes of racism, sexism, power and redemption. Highly recommended.

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  • Jefferson
  • 05-12-10

The Past of Slavery Still Moves and Wounds Us

Octavia Butler's Kindred is a terrible, fascinating, and moving novel, so vivid in its examination of the Southern slave system and its negative effects on slaves (especially) and masters (subtly). Butler puts her protagonist Dana Franklin, a contemporary African American woman, into incredibly difficult physical, moral, and existential situations via time travel to the antebellum Maryland plantation of her ancestors. Although there is no scientific explanation for the time travel, Butler's depiction of life on a slave plantation is convincingly detailed and realistic.

Kim Staunton does a marvelous job reading Kindred. Her natural voice is just right for Dana's warm, thoughtful, and honest first-person narration. Staunton effortlessly reads the voices of various characters, from an educated Southern Californian black woman of the 1970s to a Maryland slave or slave-owner of the early 19th century. There are moments of intense suspense and horrific violence, as well as moments of melting kindness and (nearly) redemptive understanding.

That I, a white man, had no trouble empathizing and identifying with Butler's black, female protagonist narrator Dana, but that I also uncomfortably found myself thinking that I would probably be at least as bad a master as Rufus Weylin, agreeing with Dana's white husband that life for the slaves on the Weylin plantation was not as bad as it could be (which meant that I was to some degree taking too lightly their pain living it), and longing for an impossibly happy ending, all testify to Butler's skill as a writer.

This book should be read by anyone who thinks that slavery really wasn't so bad after all or that the past is past. It should be read by anyone who wants to experience a powerful and absorbing story read by an excellent actress-reader.

143 people found this helpful

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  • S. Davis
  • 03-11-07

Felt the Experience

I had not read any work by Octavia Butler prior to her death - I wasn't really interested in Sci-Fi. This book was an enjoyable read, not traditional sci-fci but part social commentary and part history lesson. You can really feel the characters (great narrator) and feel empathy for all of them. I had a very different perspective of the time period after listening to this book.

63 people found this helpful

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  • Kathy
  • 22-08-10

Great view of black Antebellum South in a novel

At first, I thought I had purchased a time travel novel for young adults. As I listened, I realized that the story presented a pretty accurate view of life in Antebellum South for the African American slave. It is presented through the eyes of a modern African American woman and it was eye opening. I've always enjoyed a touch of time travel and that was handled very well by the narrator so that you realized when you were in various times. Also, check into the authoress. She is quite famous in her own right and knowing about her added to the novel in my opinion. I definitely would consider this book. It is not preachy; it is just a good novel about someone who finds herself in the pre-Civil War south.

58 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kirsten
  • 30-01-08

Octavia is awesome!!

I have read many of Octavia's books so I was excited to see one of them here. Wish they had more, I would get them all. Anyway this book is very good and the reader is excellent. I didn't have any trouble keeping track of the characters even with one reader. The book is surreal and enveloping. You don't know what to think or what might happen. The book is disturbing at times because part of it occurs in the 1800s during slavery. This book is great stuff!!

53 people found this helpful

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  • Jane
  • 21-07-16

Disappointed

I recently listened to Dawn by the same author and I really enjoyed it. The plot device here is time travel that takes us to the early 1800s into a plantation with slaves. It really is not sci-fi. Instead it is historical fiction without anything that I found new or surprising. The narration was weak. The narrators voice was pleasant but not interesting. She did the accents well but it isn't enough to outweigh the rather rote reading. I will not listen to her again.

37 people found this helpful

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  • KayTee
  • 24-07-16

Should have been...

The story line should have lent itself to a great tale. It did not. It was simplistic, sometimes silly. For example, the time travelers assumed the people in the era they visited were somehow ignorant because they did not "understand" things the way they did. Also, it was ridiculous that Rufus accepted that Dana was a time traveler so easily. I actually went back to see if it was categorized as a young adult genre - it was not. The narrator better suited to reading a children's book. Her narration added a frustration to an already superficial story. I can only recommend this book to someone that wants a book that requires little effort.

35 people found this helpful

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  • Adam Shields
  • 26-04-14

Incredible

A bit over a year ago I picked up Octavia Butler’s book Fledgling more by mistake than anything else. I knew the late Octavia Butler was a well known science fiction author, but I had not read anything she had written.

Fledgling, her last book, was about vampires, but was far different from either the young adult Twilight books, the Anne Rice books or the traditional Bram Stoker, book.

I was reluctant to pick up Kindred because of the subject matter. An African American woman gets sent back to Antebellum South. I expected a depressing or superficial book. Instead I found one of the best fiction books I have read this year.

I am a bit allergic to nostalgia, wishing to be back at some mythical point in history is great, for those that were privileged at that point in time.

Dana, both a woman and African American, was not privileged to in 1815 or the later points where she goes back. It is this voice, of the African American and female writer that Butler is known for. But what could be a simplistic (slavery was bad) book was a nuanced look at how culture affect the person.

This past week, with all of the tributes to Nelson Mandela, I was disturbed by those that wanted to focus on his freedom fighting days prior to his arrest without paying any attention to the reality on the ground of what Apartheid was like. Similarly, there is a movement among a small segment of Christians that want to assert that slavery is not objectively evil, but only evil to the extent that slave owners acted sinfully toward their slaves.

This is a level of historical reconstruction similar to holocaust deniers and just as dangerous. If this book were only a modern look at the reality of slavery it would be worth reading, but limited. Instead, it is well written, understands both the evil of slavery and the power of culture and the ability to overcome culture at times.

In some ways this book makes me think of one of my favorite books, The Time Traveler’s Wife. Both are heartbreaking in the way that one person is ripped out of time and another is left behind.

This is not a new book. Kindred was written in 1979 and was the book that allowed Octavia Butler to become a full time writer. Butler later won a MacArthur Foundation Genius grant and multiple Nebula and Hugo awards. I have picked up her Patternist series and Lilith’s Brood Trilogy as part of a recent kindle sale and look forward to reading what I understand is yet again two very different types of stories.

Originally posted on my blog, Bookwi.se

35 people found this helpful

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  • Lauren
  • 14-02-17

Simply written, but full of wisdom

Kindred's writing style doesn't use a lot of flowery speech and metaphors, but it's enjoyable and straight to the point. It's impressive the range of topics which it covers. I actually wish that I could have been assigned this book in high school, because I'd love to get an academic take on it.

24 people found this helpful

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  • Elaine
  • 20-03-12

Good story but poor editing

I know I'm getting picky but it makes me crazy to hear the same sentence over and over when there could be so many ways to say it.

"I said nothing" was a statement made by Dana over and over and over. I heard it 5 times in an hour in part 2. Poor editing didn't bother me until I listened to Ken Follett's book and he was so repetitive with such awkward sentences that I wanted to scream at times. He had a great story but where was the editor???

So the story line is good though a bit strange at time. The character Dana disappears and returns wet and muddy in a few seconds and her husband doesn't believe what she tells him. He tries to tell her she imagined it yet there she is wet and muddy and in a different place in just seconds. The conversation should have been closer to - Holy Cow. What is this? - but instead he tries to tell Dana it was just a dream. She should take a shower and clean up and she will feel better and realize nothing really happened to her?

Really? That's the conversation? Is that because he's the man and she's the woman and therefore he must understand more than her?

The book is worth the read because of the different inside looking out view of slavery but with involved editing it could have been so much better.

23 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Rehema I. Trimiew
  • 23-10-07

Simple and interesting

I found the writing to be basic and simple and I wondered what age the book was intended for, maybe a young teenager? Despite the lack of complexity in the writing the story brought the experience of living under slavery in America to life! It raised a number of questions in my mind about the legacy of slavery based on the experiences of the protagonist as a contemporary black woman thrust into slavery. I recommend it for the new perspective it will give you by examining the past.

19 people found this helpful