Troubled Time Travel

Kindred by Octavia Butler

A time travel novel that reveals the horrors of slavery and the effects of living in constant fear and uncertainty. Dana, a black woman living in 1976, is suddenly tugged back in time to the early 1800s, where she rescues a young white boy named Rufus, who is destined to become Dana’s ancestor (and who is not the world’s greatest human being, to put it lightly). Repeatedly, Dana is called back in time whenever Rufus faces danger, and she can return to her life in the 1970s only when her own life is in danger. Dana’s husband Kevin, who is white, also travels back in time with her on one of her journeys, and the couple find themselves carrying out a strange and terrible façade of acting as slave and master. We know from the very beginning that Dana survives, but only after she suffers a severe injury. Nevertheless, there were several points in this book when I feared for her well-being. Butler (1947-2006) was a fabulous writer who fully deserved that MacArthur genius grant— and she was someone we lost too soon.