This week’s New Title Tuesday pick is Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred a Graphic Novel Adaptation by Damian Duffy and John Jennings. I have not read the original novel – partly because I tend to swipe left to books with a time-travel-science-fiction element. But this book is as compelling and as suspenseful as other books I’ve enjoyed.
Publisher’s Summary: 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 antebellum 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.
Frightening, compelling, and richly imagined, Kindred offers an unflinching look at our complicated social history, transformed by the graphic novel format into a visually stunning work for a new generation of readers.
There are two points I’d like to make. The first is that it is fun to read a graphic novel – even one that is dark and brutal. I grew up in an era that dismissed comic books as empty entertainment. Purists assume this “dumbs down” serious literature. No, it doesn’t! Graphic adaptations enhance and dramatize literature in the same way as a play or film. Shakespeare created visual and dramatic productions. No one was expected to read a play back in the day, for heaven’s sake.
The other point is that books such as Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred a Graphic Novel Adaptation are necessary to inform readers about the reality and complexity of our nation’s history. For example, the protagonist Dana and her white husband travel back in time and witness the children of slaves playing a game about the dollar value of slaves they are selling. The author writes, “The kids are just imitating what they’ve seen adults doing. They don’t understand.”
And that’s exactly why books such as Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred a Graphic Novel Adaptation, or any other text that helps the reader empathize and understand how embedded racism can be, is vital to our society.
As Charles Pulliam-Moore wrote in his gizmodo.com review,
“I first read Octavia Butler’s Kindred in high school, but, looking back, I don’t really know that I was ready to process the novel for what it truly was: a dark reflection on how a person’s power and agency are inexorably linked to their race and gender. A new graphic novel version delivers the genius of the scifi classic in a totally different way.
In its original novel format, Kindred gave readers a grim, thoughtful blend of classic sci-fi and Butler’s distinctive voice. But in Abrams ComicArts’ new graphic novelization adapted by cartoonist Damian Duffy and illustrated by professor John Jennings, Kindred becomes a different kind of story that’s driven by a combination of powerful imagery and Butler’s haunting prose.”
Pulliam-Moore says it better than me: “It’s one thing to simply read Dana’s internal monologue, but to see the erosion of her spirit on the page gives Kindred an added layer of visceral impact.”
Happy Reading! Susan C.
You might also enjoy by Octavia E Butler:
Parable of the Sower -The time is 2025. The place is California, where small walled communities must protect themselves from hordes of desperate scavengers and roaming bands of people addicted to a drug that activates an orgasmic desire to burn, rape, and murder. When one small community is overrun, Lauren Olamina, an 18 year old black woman with the hereditary train of “hyperempathy” — which causes her to feel others’ pain as her own — sets off on foot along the dangerous coastal highways, moving north into the unknown.
Dawn – Rescued from Earth’s destruction, one woman is called upon to revive mankindLilith Iyapo has just lost her husband and son when atomic fire consumes Earth—the last stage of the planet’s final war. Hundreds of years later Lilith awakes, deep in the hold of a massive alien spacecraft piloted by the Oankali—who arrived just in time to save humanity from extinction. They have kept Lilith and other survivors asleep for centuries, as they learned whatever they could about Earth. Now it is time for Lilith to lead them back to her home world, but life among the Oankali on the newly resettled planet will be nothing like it was before. The Oankali survive by genetically merging with primitive civilizations—whether their new hosts like it or not. For the first time since the nuclear holocaust, Earth will be inhabited. Grass will grow, animals will run, and people will learn to survive the planet’s untamed wilderness. But their children will not be human. Not exactly. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Octavia E. Butler including rare images from the author’s estate.
And by Damian Duffy:
Out of Sequence by Damian Duffy is an exploration of the question: what are comics? It is a declaration of the diversity of sequential art in the United States, diversity not just of creators, but also of content and form. It is a broad survey of women, small press, minority, independent, gay and lesbian, self-published, mini, underground, web, and/or gallery comics creators, featuring the work of 70 artists.