This is not only a cover assessment, but also a review so heavy spoilers ahead. Also, CW: slavery, racism, rape, sexual assault, physical abuse, family separation

I will judge a book by its cover and I will not be made ashamed thank you very much. As much as we all love a good rant, here I will talk about book covers that I think are particularly good and why they’re good. As with almost everything on this blog, there will be a good deal of spoilers in these posts as good covers will always tell us something about the book they’re advertising. In the end, covers are advertising and if you don’t have a good cover it’ll be harder, but not impossible, to sell people on your book. Alright, let’s get to it!

Reader, this was a hard book. It’s up there with Maus I&II, Persepolis, The Best We Can Do—these are all memoirs based on the author’s and/or their families experiences. I know Kindred isn’t a reader, but it was intimately about family and how fractured families can become because of sensible human inflicted violence. I’ve been interested in reading Butler because she’s a staple of SFF, but I hadn’t ever read any of her books and I had no idea what Kindred was about (please don’t tell me what Parable of the Sower is about—I plan on reading that soon and enjoyed going in with nothing).

Slavery is something I’ve learned about in school, had read stories and read history articles, but it was still kind of distant from me. I could read about it and learn about it. Logistically, I know certain things that happened often, and I knew things the violence, separation, and dehumanization that happened. But when reading Kindred felt like an intimate experience for me. Dana was relatable in her frustration, but also her compassion. I felt her pain and anger, but also the affinity she developed with her ancestors and the people around them.

I think the cover is stunning and so symbolic so I wanted to talk about this week. The center piece of course is the two hands; and with the hands chained resembling handcuffs, it’s not difficult to figure out the book has something to do with slavery. But how much the book cover represents the plot, and the general oppression of slavery, is done very well.

The book centers around Dana, a black woman who lives (in our time?) in modern times, but maybe in like the late 90s or early 2000s? She lives with her husband, a white man, in LA and suddenly finds herself traveling through time to the early 1800s (the first time is at 1815). She’s transported several different times during the book, the time increasing overtime she’s transported. The first time she meets a little red-haired boy named Rufus who is her great-great-grandfather (or something like that). She ends up having a huge impact on his life, having saved his life more than once.

When Dana first meets Rufus, he’s a child and she feels drawn to him; as the number of interactions with him increases she makes more excuses for him and feels compelled to do more and more for him. She essentially watches him grow up and sees him as a child, late teen, and at different parts of his adult life. He comes to rely on her, all the while justifying the horrible treatment of the Enslaved Africans he owns; he rapes one of the women he grew up with as a child, sells the children of some of his enslaved Africans, and so much more. But because of the things he’s experienced with her, he trusts her more than anyone, including his family. Rufus seems to look to Dana almost like a child/parent relationship. Yet he still is a product of his time and he—unconsciously—manipulates her and, consciously, threatens her into doing questionably immoral things.

In this way, the white hand closing around the wrist of the black forearm represents, not only the hold Rufus has over Dana, but the control he exercises over all the enslaved Africans and freed black people who work for him, the general power dynamics between white and black people, and the racism that still persists in the United States today.

Overall, I think this was an incredible book, and it was very intense to read as a graphic novel. I knew nothing going in, so this was a very enlightening and surprising book to read. Even so, very important and it made me want to read more of Octavia Butler’s books. Have you read this book? Do you like the graphic novel cover? Let me know!