Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation Book Poster Image
Intense, stellar adaptation of classic sci-fi/fantasy novel.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Explores science-fiction theories of time travel, time paradox, and historical and sociological studies into American colonial and 19th-century slavery and the human condition under extreme circumstances with equally extreme consequences.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about endurance, empathy, courage, and the need to understand the full reality of slavery. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

There are positive role models including the main character who constantly balances who she is and how she perceives she should act when she is thrown into pre-Civil War Maryland on a slave plantation. She displays empathy and courage while trying to maintain her humanity. Many of the slaves she encounters have a positive influence, and her husband offers a significant level of support and courage once tested when he's trapped in pre-Civil War Maryland as well.

Violence

There is significant violence throughout the book, including slave beatings; a man beats a woman severely, a woman kills herself, and a woman stabs a man with a knife. Blood is shown; one beating scene is witnessed by a child. The violence is not gratuitous, but it is graphic.

Sex

Rape is discussed, and the children produced are shown; a woman and man are shown naked, but no genitals are shown. Another scene shows a man and woman in bed and implies they had sex after going on a date. Several attempted rapes are shown.

Language

Racial epithets, the "N" word, "bitch," "damn." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some drinking with dinner and during a party by adults shown. An adult male is shown smoking a pipe.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that New York Times best-selling Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation is based on Octavia E. Butler's classic 1979 novel. It's an intense, emotional, visceral sci-fi story that sends a modern black woman to pre-Civil War Maryland to a slave plantation, where she's confronted with the realities of slavery as both an observer and a subjugated participant. There are intense scenes of violence with blood, body blows, and the results shown. There are intense scenes of attempted rape and discussion of rapes, both single-incident and habitual, and the results and injuries are shown. The violence is not gratuitous; instead it is an unvarnished look at the reality of life for both slave and master in America. Parents should be prepared for emotional reactions to intense scenes in the book as well as discussions surrounding the issues of feminism, science-fiction and fantasy, race, history, the treatment of women, and Afrofuturism.

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What's the story?

KINDRED: GRAPHIC NOVEL ADAPTATION tells the story of Dana, an African-American writer in the 1970s married to a white man who finds herself dragged through time to repeatedly save her white slaveholding ancestor's life to preserve her own down the line. She is confronted with the very real dangers of being an educated black woman who dresses "like a man" in a time when women were killed for less. She watches and then is subjugated to the horrors of slavery and begins to understand the "history of slavery" is nothing but words on a page compared with reality. Will Dana continue to time-travel and save her ancestor, or will it all be too much for her to bear?

Is it any good?

In this dead-on retelling of Octavia E. Butler's 1979 sci-fi novel, which is intense, heart-stopping, thought-provoking, and powerful, Damian Duffy boils Butler's work down to 240 pages while not losing any of the strife, terror, ambiguity, and movement of the original. It's tough to take on a widely acclaimed and deeply loved work, and Duffy has done it splendidly, making the story come alive in a different art form. 

Illustrator John Jennings brings intricate, layered, and at times deliberately heavy, dazed, and frazzled-feeling illustrations to Butler's work, allowing readers another deeply emotional connection to the story and Dana's experiences. Jennings' art increases the intensity for readers. Some passages feel like a gut punch to the soul. There's much to unpack in the story: Duffy's adaptation, Jennings' use of color, and the science-fiction, Afrofuturistic, feminist, and racial aspects of the book. Duffy and Jennings have opened a new generation's eyes to Butler's work while encouraging Butler's fans to experience the story in a whole new way. The strong themes make this a book geared toward high school teens, and its stunning graphic novel presentation makes it perfect to tempt reluctant readers as well.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the enslaved people are portrayed in Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation. How does that compare with other media portrayals you've seen and with the historical documentation from slaves narratives? Does the media sometimes present a romanticized view of the time?

  • Dana had an idea of how she would be if she were a slave and an idea of what it was like back then, but nothing prepared her for it. Based on the text, imagine what you would be like in those circumstances in that era.

  • How does the art in the intense scenes make you feel? How does the art change when Dana travels back to the plantation vs. when she's at home in her present time?

Book details

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