Octavia E. Butler… What can you say about her except that she’s brilliant and talented? Her writing style is by far unmatched and she’s considered one of the writing greats along with James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, and many, many others. 

I have to admit, up until this point, I haven’t read any of her books and while I should be ashamed of that fact, I’m not. I think Octavia’s books are different from any other book out there. While she’s not new to my consciousness, her writing style is new to me. I think you have to be in a place where her writing will make sense and penetrate the way she meant it to, which can be different points in time for everyone. That said, I wasn’t ready… until now. I can say, I respect the wait.

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The book starts off with meeting Edana (Dana), a woman with a lot going on. She’s moving in with her husband, Kevin, into a new place and it’s her 26th birthday. However, something happens as they are unpacking their belongings. Suddenly, Dana gets dizzy and faints. While she’s out, she blacks out in front of Kevin, then she disappears completely.

She ends up near a riverbank and she helps a drowning white boy back to shore. She has no time to think about what happened or what’s going on, she just jumped into action immediately trying to save the boy. Only to find herself at the business end of a long rifle, pointed at her by a white man, and a white woman screaming that she tried to kill her son. Of course, this is shocking to Dana b/c she tries to make sure the boy is still alive before addressing the woman. Soon, the boy comes around and Dana disappears back to her home and in front of Kevin. 

This happens more and more often and for longer periods of time. What Dana must find out is how is this boy able to summon her from the present? Who is he? How can she keep herself safe while gone, as she realizes that everything she feels and thinks follows her back to the present. What she is there to do? What does this all mean? I believe that everything is happening to Dana for a reason and somehow it’s meant to teach her something powerful about herself and her family history that couldn’t be taught any other way. 

Real Life:

It’s not hard to relate this book to real life. The trauma and devastation of slavery still have a very lasting and effective influence on the world today. This means that there is still the presence of white privilege, entitlement, superiority, and white supremacy as well as colorism, poverty, the enslavement of the mind, generational trauma, the breakdown in black families, prejudice, voter suppression, racism, sexism, and police brutality.

Though the #BLM movement is alive and well to combat police brutality, racism, racial profiling, and a host of other oppressive and harsh treatment towards black and brown people, we have to acknowledge that the police are doing what they were designed to do. Their job as “patrollers” was to catch runaway slaves and bring them back to their masters. Sadly, the runaway slave can be dead or alive, but most likely alive, then once they were returned to their masters, they were punished for running away in the first place, wanting freedom, and the ability to live a whole and full life instead of in bondage.

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Having to relive the trauma (via books, movies, and documentaries) and knowing your history is important b/c we have to know where we come from, what happened to the ancestors that came before us, and how we can carry on the tradition of continual change until we’re all treated equally. Slavery happened 400 years ago and it continues in many forms to this day. It’s in the body language, tone, words, passive-aggressiveness, microaggressions, and ignorance of people whether they realize it or not. Our job, is to ensure that we push for change, so that our children will not have to fight for basic rights, respect, and liberties.

I must also admit that I used to actively avoid the slave narrative and horrors that came with racism, discrimination, and white supremacy. Learning about the trauma, the men being escalated, not being even considered a whole man, called a boy and the n-word, just… I avoided it all b/c it was painful and I wanted to ignore it. However, I am inundated with everything I can find to consciously learn and know what that history held. While I don’t want it to make me angry, I really want to know so that I can teach my children what’s missing in school and have them grow an appreciation for who they are and what the FIGHT has meant to us, as a people.

Recommendation:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, so much so, that I’ve been looking for other books that would be anything like this one. I honestly didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did, but I’m glad to be proven wrong. If you want to know if I recommend this book, I give you a RESOUNDING YES!!! 

It was interesting, well written, the symbolism is amazing, and the characters were well developed, which makes a very great story and book. As I mentioned before, I wish I would have started reading her work sooner, but I believe she entered my life when she was supposed to, so that I could get the most from her and especially with everything going on right now, it couldn’t have come at a better time. #BLM #ForTheCulture

Finally, if you haven’t seen it yet… watch Underground. It can be found on Hulu. It is an awesome series that depicts what being a slave was about as well as how hard black people fought to be free. Yes, there are other shows and movies, but Underground was really done well.