The Weekend Reading List: Kindred – A Graphic Novel Adaptation

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia E. Butler, Illustrated by John Jennings, and Adapted by Damian Duffy

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The Stats:

  • Publication Date: January 10th, 2017
  • Book turned graphic novel, science fiction, time travel, historical fiction, originally by POC author, POC main character
  • 2.5/5
  • WARNINGS: Fans of the original book might not like this adaptation. Also, the main character loses an arm (not a spoiler, you find that out very early).

From Amazon:

“Octavia E. Butler’s bestselling literary science-fiction masterpiece, Kindred,now in graphic novel format.

More than 35 years after its release, Kindred continues to draw in new readers with its deep exploration of the violence and loss of humanity caused by slavery in the United States, and its complex and lasting impact on the present day. Adapted by celebrated academics and comics artists Damian Duffy and John Jennings, this graphic novel powerfully renders Butler’s mysterious and moving story, which spans racial and gender divides in the antebellum South through the 20th century.

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.

Held up as an essential work in feminist, science-fiction, and fantasy genres, and a cornerstone of the Afrofuturism movement, there are over 500,000 copies of Kindred in print. The intersectionality of race, history, and the treatment of women addressed within the original work remain critical topics in contemporary dialogue, both in the classroom and in the public sphere.

Frightening, compelling, and richly imagined, Kindred offers an unflinching look at our complicated social history, transformed by the graphic novel format into a visually stunning work for a new generation of readers.”

Zo’s Review:

Octavia Butler fans, don’t kill me, but I have never actually read the original version of Kindred. However, based on the usual assumptions of adaptations of original works (there are exceptions of course but this is not one of them), I can only assume that Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation pales in comparison to the original.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Despite not having read Kindred it has always been on my ever growing “To Be Read” List. As a black woman, the fact that the book is known as a time traveling science fiction story with a black female main character always intrigued me. There’s not many books out there with black female main characters, let alone black female main characters in a science fiction story, and definitely not many books with a very well known black female author. It can get a bit depressing, to be honest, as a woman of color reader to not have characters that are described as you are in some of your favorite genres; but that’s a rant for another blog post.

Anyway, Kindred has been on my radar for awhile but with school and other life stuff I never had much time to get around to it. Lo and behold, I came across Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation. If you’re a long time reader of the blog, you may or may not realize that I turn to graphic novels when I want to read something but have very little time to do it. So when I saw this adaptation, I thought it would be an easy way to finally get a book that has long been on my TBR list off.

Let’s just say that if you could see an actual physical TBR list, the original Kindred would still be on it.

As I said before, I haven’t read the original book, but I had heard so many positive reviews about it from several trusted friends that I couldn’t believe that the choppy and sometimes confusing plot of the graphic novel was in the original book. I felt the pacing was a bit off and sometimes it felt like plot points that should have connected just didn’t. I mean, if you wanted a very abbreviated Spark Notes version of the story with pictures I guess this would be what you want. However, I just felt that the translation from the original text to a graphic novel format wasn’t as smooth as it could have been. Perhaps if Butler was still alive and had helped with the adaptation it might have been better but this version really didn’t meet the expectation that had been built.

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The illustrations by John Jennings weren’t my personal favorites of his. I think he’s done better but that is more my own opinion than an actual critique. Still, I appreciate that a black artist was reached out to for the illustration of this graphic novel, especially someone as talented as Jennings.

Though Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation did not quite meet my expectations, I will still, and I encourage others to as well, read the original version of Kindred and also any other book written by Octavia Butler.

I received a copy of this book from the NetGalley and the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

What do you all think? Have you read Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation already? Have any other book suggestions that I should add to my Weekend Reading List? Leave your thoughts behind in the comments. Just be respectful please.

This book is part of a reading challenge that I’ve decided to participate for the upcoming year, Der Vang’s 2017 Womxn of Color Reading Challenge. If you would like to learn more, participate, or see which books I’m doing/have done check it out here.

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