Kindred: A Graphic Novel
by Octavia E. Butler, John Jennings
and Damian Duffy
More than 35 years after its release, Kindred continues to draw in new readers with its deep exploration of the violence and loss of humanity caused by slavery in the United States, and its complex and lasting impact on the present day. Adapted by celebrated academics and comics artists Damian Duffy and John Jennings, this graphic novel powerfully renders Butler’s mysterious and moving story, which spans racial and gender divides in the South through the 20th century.
Butler’s most celebrated, critically acclaimed work tells the story of Dana, a young black woman who is suddenly and inexplicably transported from her home in 1970s California to the pre–Civil War South. As she time-travels between worlds, one in which she is a free woman and one where she is part of her own complicated familial history on a southern plantation, she becomes frighteningly entangled in the lives of Rufus, a conflicted white slaveholder and one of Dana’s own ancestors, and the many people who are enslaved by him.
Held up as an essential work in feminist, science-fiction, and fantasy genres, and a cornerstone of the Afrofuturism movement, there are over 500,000 copies of Kindred in print. The intersectionality of race, history, and the treatment of women addressed within the original work remain critical topics in contemporary dialogue, both in the classroom and in the public sphere.
Kindred follows a young African-American woman named Dana in the 1970s as she is somehow transported to the pre-Civil War South in a very dangerous time. Dana lives in a time when people of colour are still looked down upon by some people and given less opportunity and work but the time she’s transported to is a time where people were still being sold and lived generations born as slaves that were sexually assaulted, whipped and killed for the pleasure of others or because of pity grudges from their sadistic owners.
I have never heard of the book this graphic novel was based on but I knew right away that it would be an important story because of the subject matter and I learned how stunning it was while I was reading through it. Living in Australia and living in 2016, we learn about the awful times in America and every country and we know what has happened in the past but a lot of people don’t have the firsthand experience or family stories to understand just how horrible it was. It was a great experience to have a picture into what these people would have gone through and how one person can make a difference to so many lives through their decisions and I definitely want to read the actual novel it was based on after reading so many interesting facts about the wonderful Octavia E. Butler.
It’s so strange that she was transported back to this time by the call of fear from a young child but you do find out what role she plays in everything. Kindred is definitely not a happy story and it is filled with misfortune and pain but it was still enjoyable to read because above the despair for the situation there was a mystery to solve. I loved that she met people and grew with them over the time the story covered. It was beautiful that she could affect the past like that but also frightening for the effect it had on her.
While it is a graphic novel it is pretty intense with mature themes so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone younger than sixteen but I do think it should be required reading for anyone interested in this history and if novels aren’t their thing since it was a really quick read with awesome illustrations! So, thank-you to Abrams ComicArts for the copy of Kindred and look out for it when it’s released on the 10th of January next year!
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