Quotes From Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Octavia E. Butler (1947 – 2006) was an American author of science fiction. In the white male-dominated genre of science fiction, she broke ground both as a woman as well as an African-American.

After publishing some short stories, Octavia Butler’s first novel was Patternmaster (1976). It was the first in what would become a four-volume series. But it was Kindred (1979) that really put Octavia Butler on the literary map. It follows the tale of Dana, a contemporary African-American woman who travels back in time to save an ancestor who happens to be a white slave owner. By saving him in his time, she ensures her own survival in the future. Following is a selection of quotes from Kindred, showcasing Octavia Butler’s keen observations of human nature: 

“Better to stay alive,” I said. “At least while there’s a chance to get free.” I thought of the sleeping pills in my bag and wondered just how great a hypocrite I was. It was so easy to advise other people to live with their pain.”

“Repressive societies always seemed to understand the danger of ‘wrong’ ideas.”

“…I realized that I knew less about loneliness than I had thought — and much less than I would know when he went away.”

“I’d rather see the others.”
“What others?”
“The ones who make it. The ones living in freedom now.”
“If any do.”
“They do.”
“Some say they do. It’s like dying, though, and going to heaven. Nobody ever comes back to tell you about it.”

Octavia Butler

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“As a kind of castaway myself, I was happy to escape into the fictional world of someone else’s trouble.”

“Frankly, it never occurred to me that I needed someone who looked like me to show me the way. I was ignorant and arrogant and persistent and the writing left me no choice at all.”

“ … slavery of any kind fostered strange relationships. Only the overseer drew simple, unconflicting emotions of hatred and fear when he appeared briefly. But then, it was part of the overseer’s job to be hated and feared while the master kept his hands clean.”

“Nothing in my education or knowledge of the future had helped me to escape. Yet in a few years an illiterate runaway named Harriet Tubman would make nineteen trips into this country and lead three hundred fugitives to freedom.”

“She was strange now, erratic, sometimes needing my friendship, trusting me with her dangerous longings for freedom, her wild plans to run away again; and sometimes hating me, blaming me for her trouble. One.”

Parable of the Talents (Earthseed) by Octavia E. Butler

See also: Parable of the Sower & Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler

“Sometimes I wrote things because I couldn’t say them, couldn’t sort out my feelings about them, couldn’t keep them bottled inside me.”

“I didn’t want to depend on someone else’s chance violence again — violence that, if it came, could be more effective than I wanted.”

“I got caught up in one of Kevin’s World War II books — a book of excerpts from the recollections of concentration camp survivors. Stories of beatings, starvation, filth, disease, torture, every possible degradation. As though the Germans had been trying to do in only a few years what the Americans had worked at for nearly two hundred … Like the Nazis, antebellum whites had known quite a bit about torture – quite a bit more than I ever wanted to learn.”

“I’m not sure it’s possible for a lone black woman — or even a black man — to be protected in that place.”

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

The Theme of Survival in Kindred

“In fact, [the South Africans] were living in the past as far as their race relations went. They lived in ease and comfort supported by huge numbers of blacks whom they kept in poverty and held in contempt.”

“He was like me – a kindred spirit crazy enough to keep on trying.”

“He had already found the way to control me — by threatening others.”

“Slavery is a long slow process of dulling.”

‘Strength. Endurance. To survive, my ancestors had to put up with more than I ever could. Much more.”

“And I began to realize why Kevin and I had fitted in so easily into this time. We weren’t really in. We were observers watching a show. We were watching history happen around us. And we were actors. While we waited to go home, we humored the people around us by pretending to be like them. But we were poor actors. We never really got into our roles. We never forgot that we were acting.”

Kindred by Octavia Butler 25th anniversary edition


Kindred by Octavia E. Butler on Amazon

“She had done the safe thing — had accepted a life of slavery because she was afraid. She was the kind of woman who might have been called ‘mammy’ in some other household. She was the kind of woman who would be held in contempt during the militant nineteen sixties.”

“I had seen people beaten on television and in the movies. I had seen the too-red blood substitute streaked across their backs and heard their well-rehearsed screams. But I hadn’t lain nearby and smelled their sweat or heard them pleading and praying, shamed before their families and themselves. I was probably less prepared for the reality than the child crying not far from me. In fact, she and I were reacting very much alike.”

“I felt as though I were losing my place here in my own time. Rufus’s time was a sharper, stronger reality. The work was harder, the smells and tastes were stronger, the danger was greater, the pain was worse.”

Octavia Butler

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