Book Review: Octavia Butler’s Kindred adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings (3/5)

2 Feb

This was my first foray into the graphic novel. My reading buddy and I had decided to read Kindred and the graphic novel and paperback were comparable prices at our bookstore so we decided to try something new with a graphic novel. I’m not sure I’d recommend the format for a discussion the way we do (virtual at least 4 times during the story). It would be better for a solo read.

Cover image via Amazon

Octavia Butler’s Kindred adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings

Summary from Amazon:

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.

This story was very moving and really powerful. I’ve read stories about American slavery before and most of the ones I remember were told from the slaveholder’s point of view. Having a Black character tell the story was much more powerful. Dana was great for telling this story because she made it easier to compare the treatment of Blacks in the 1970s to slaves in the 1800s. She lived in both worlds and learned how to survive. Having a white partner made it an even more stark contrast and I liked how Butler included Kevin for this. The images in the book were really striking. My reading buddy and I liked the color selections, where the 1970s was monochromatic while the 1800s was in full color and much more vivid.

I thought a lot of the characters were good reflections of their time. Dana and Kevin were progressive, even for their era, but didn’t come off as unrealistic. I think the ways they acted in the 1800s were believable, too. They had to learn to temper their gut reactions to things to realize what life was like on a plantation. I think Rufus and the people who lived on the plantation were credible characters for their time as well. Sarah was the one I felt for the most. She’d really suffered at the hands of the Weilyns and her protective feelings over Carrie were understandable and realistic. She was a really strong woman.

Dana was my favorite character and it made reading her story more enjoyable. She was smart and very resourceful. I was scared for her when she would travel but I knew she was smart enough to survive whatever was coming her way. Watching her adapt was terrifying and inspiring at the same time.

There wasn’t really a character I related to in this story and it didn’t prevent me from enjoying it. What’s enjoyable about this story is that the characters are in a situation that is impossible to imagine. Time travel’s unreality makes it fascinating to see what would happen if the impossible were possible and think what would happen to people in those crazy situations.

Damian Duffy and John Jennings
Image via the University of Illinois

[Small spoiler ahead.] Dana’s travel back to find Kevin was my favorite. On top of the story with Rufus, I was anxious about the two of them being reunited. It added a level of suspense on top of the mystery and horror of her situation that I thought made for a really compelling section of the story.

[Bigger spoiler alert ahead.] The ending of the book was a bit too rushed for my liking. After Dana returns from her last trip, things wrapped up almost too quickly. She seemed to move on from a very traumatizing situation very quickly and Kevin was supportive but I got a feeling he was also telling her to move on. We know that Alice is a relative because of a family bible but now she can’t find anything about her relatives. Their names are in the Bible so I felt that would have been the perfect place to start. I turned the last page expecting more and was a bit disappointed.

The illustrations were well done and helped me visualize the story well. The scenes of violence and abuse I found particularly moving and hard to look at because of their impact. I liked Dana’s depiction a lot and felt the way she was dressed was a great contrast to the 1800s which kept her from blending in and kept the focus on her.

It’s hard to comment on the adaptation without having read the original novel. A part of me still wants to read it (or listen to the audiobook). I know adaptations usually have to take out a lot of the story and I wonder how much I missed by reading the adaptation. I also wonder how much richer my idea of the Weylin plantation is because of the images.

Butler’s story brings the atrocities of slavery into a modern perspective. Instead of a historical fiction story where all characters have a mindset of the time, Kevin and Dana bring a more relatable perspective to the time and give opinions similar to those of the modern reader. Having a Black main character highlights those differences when Dana can compare the way she’s treated at work and by her husband with the way she’s treated the second she arrives in the 1800s. This story is powerful. The graphic novel adaptation really highlights the experience Dana is having. You can’t forget the bruises and scars she has when they’re in every frame.

Writer’s Takeaway: The profile of Butler in the book highlights that she wrote this book because she couldn’t find a science fiction book with a Black female main character. She wanted to be able to see herself in the main character. This is so reflective of the push now to have minority voices published more often. Butler took her own life experiences and poured them into a story that gives a powerful look at a time period that’s often written about. This also encourages me to continue to ‘write what I know.’ Butler’s familiarity with Dana shows and makes her very powerful.

An enjoyable story that I feel suffered slightly from being adapted. I’m not sure graphic novels are a format for me. Three out of Five Stars.

This book fulfilled the 1800-1899 time period for the 2021 When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
Octavia Butler’s Kindred, adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings | Intellectus Speculativus
Graphic Novel Review: Kindred | The Bookish Kirra
Kindred: A Graphic Novel | Great Stories Club, Book Discussion
Review: Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation | This Weblog is Unique. Just Like They All Are
Kindred the Graphic Novel: A Review | Nerds Color


3 Responses to “Book Review: Octavia Butler’s Kindred adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings (3/5)”

  1. Julie Anna's Books February 3, 2021 at 4:36 PM #

    Great review! I just read the original story recently, and I’m curious about all of the differences from the graphic novel. I feel like we had the same favorite parts; [spoiler->] I couldn’t put the book down when Dana and Kevin were separated and Dana was looking for him!


    • Sam February 3, 2021 at 7:52 PM #

      That was a great storyline! We e found a way to ways time up our breaks with cliffhanger time jumps and I was NOT ok with them when they weren’t together. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person


  1. February Wrap Up and March TBR – paperbacktomes - March 1, 2021

    […] Book Review: Octavia Butler’s Kindred adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words […]


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