Octavia Butler, 1979

Premise: Dana lives in California, and while her life and job aren't perfect, she's getting by. That is, until she starts unexpectedly shifting in time, visiting her ancestors in the pre-Civil War South.

This was a really good book, which is no surprise. Despite the core premise, it's a bit more grounded than the other works by Butler I've read. The time travel is never explained or justified; it's just what forces Dana to face history, both personal and political.

Dana struggles to understand the people she meets in the past at first, but once she spends more time there she struggles to maintain distance and context. As a black woman, she has to adapt in order to survive the 1800s, without letting go of her "real life" in the 1970s. Through Dana, the reader is brought closer to both the horrors and the complex realities of life under and around slavery.

Because it is complex. No character is a stereotype. Dana even discovers that one of her ancestors is a white slave owner, and his attitudes and actions are as complicated as the other characters (never romanticized at all, just realistically complicated).

It's a brutal, emotional book. Side note: Butler apparently used less graphic violence in the book than she discovered in her research into slave narratives because there was a worry (not sure whether hers or the publisher's) about keeping a wide audience.

5 Stars - An Amazing Book


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