I was initially confused when Dr. May told our class that the last work we would be reading, Kindred, was a work of fiction. My confusion was amplified when I found out that it was classified as science fiction. However, after finishing the novel and discussing it in detail, I understand exactly why Dr. May chose this to be our final reading. To classify this novel as science fiction is a bit misleading, I think. The story does have science fiction elements, mainly time travel, but I think the bulk of the story focuses more on the relationships between the characters. Another stark difference I found from most science fiction novels is the fact in the novel, the main character travels back in time, as opposed to venturing into the future. I believe this was the first time I had encountered a novel taking this direction, as most science fiction novels seem to obsess over the future. Returning to how the novel relates to our course, I think it’s important to look at how the course progressed. We began the semester with Jupiter Hammon and Phillis Wheatley. Of course, both Hammon and Wheatley were slaves, yet they emerged as two of the first African American writers. With Wheatley’s writing especially, one can almost see an acceptance of slavery, instead putting more focus on God. The ideas of slavery and the roles of African Americans in society were challenged as time went on, and we were given an account to the hardships of life with writers such as Venture Smith. As the semester progressed week after week, we saw new, prominent figures in African American literature, all of whom made significant contributions to what African American literature is today. To me, it seemed that the role of the African American writer changed drastically through the years. Essentially, though, all writing was centered around, or at least was connected to, slavery. With Kindred, we see how far African American literature has come. For the first time in the semester, we see a work of fiction, one that combines several genres, and seems to be a work that the author wrote from her own desires and passions. What I saw was Octavia Butler having the freedom to write about whatever she pleased to, something that sadly would not have been as easily done just decades before. The fact that this was the last novel we read really put the entire history of African American literature in perspective, I thought.
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