Kindred In African American Literature

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According to Robert F. Reid-Pharr, “There is perhaps no strong impetus within the study of Black American literature and culture than the will to return, the desire to name the original, the source, the root, that seminal moment at which the many-tongued diversity of ancient West Africa gave way to the monolingualism of black North America” (135). Often this journey happens in black literature. Since the Emancipation Proclamation, former slaves, and occasionally non-slave abolitionists, have written or orated their accounts of living under America’s “peculiar institution.” These accounts were christened Slave Narratives and soon became a genre within themselves. In The Handbook of African American Literature Hazel Arnett Ervin defines the slave …show more content…
But, there is one glaring issue with these readings: Butler explicitly states in an interview that Kindred is not science fiction, it is fantasy. She tells Randall Kenan that “Kindred is fantasy. I mean literally, it is fantasy. There’s no science in Kindred” (28). However, I argue that the overlapping genres in Octavia Butler’s Kindred are necessary to create a narrative that explores the way the past informs the present. My reading takes the trauma that Dana, and at times her white husband, Kevin, endures and shows how Dana’s literal reliving of history is meant as an metaphor for the mental process that occurs when Black Americans who were previously ignorant of their history are transformed when they regain knowledge that has been lost as time has moved forward. This gained knowledge allows black historical revisionists to become viable authorial voices because of their ability to navigate between their dual identities as both a black and an American. This fuller knowledge of the past allows black Americans to reclaim historical black figures such as the “mammys” and give a voice to their complicated narratives of survival. While traditional American narratives depict these characters as people who embrace slavery and uphold the institution, contemporary authorial agents who are well versed in historical narratives will be able to engage in historical revisionism that contains more veracity. Prior to now, critics have not discussed the way Butler’s novel makes a case for who is capable of being a viable authorial voice. But, since Dana’s first person narration of her experience dominates the novel rather than both Dana and Kevin’s voices sharing their experiences, it is not a factor that can continue to be overlooked. As Dana narrates the history that unfolds in front of her, she becomes a solid authority on

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