April 26, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Kindred by Octavia Butler | SLJ Review

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redstarBUTLER, Octavia E. Kindred. adapted by Damian Duffy. illus. by John Jennings. 240p. Abrams ComicArts. Jan. 2017. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781419709470.

Gr 9 Up –A searing, painful, but necessary graphic novel adaptation of Butler’s classic sci-fi work. It begins with a short glimpse at African American protagonist Dana’s beaten physical state in the late 1970s and jumps briefly backward in time as she unpacks in her new home with her white husband Kevin. She is abruptly ripped from her present day to a plantation in antebellum Maryland, called there by the pained cries of her white ancestor Rufus. While Dana is in the past, time passes quickly, and she has to learn how to survive in horrendous conditions in order to protect her own future existence. She inexplicably returns to the present, where only a short time has passed, and eventually transports her husband to the past, where the white and black characters can’t understand their interracial marriage. The couple continues to be torn apart by the sporadic time travel, and each time Dana hopes to reform Rufus as he grows older, but to no avail. The graphic scenes of violence, including intimations of rape, might shock readers, but they also serve to put history in stark and realistic light. Jennings’s muted palette for the scenes in the 1970s and more vibrant hues in the mid-1800s serve as visual reminders of setting. The variation of the panels will catapult readers forward as the heroine slowly begins to understand how to manipulate the time travel. Inner monologues present Dana’s own battles with complacency in a heartbreaking way. Strong language is appropriate for the horrific situations the characters find themselves in, and important themes of oppression, systemic racism and sexism, and survival are explored. VERDICT A compelling, masterly graphic novel for all libraries serving teens.–Shelley M. Diaz, School Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2017 issue.

Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz (sdiaz@mediasourceinc.com) is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.

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