May 20th, 2016

book - key

Not so much a book review as a request for conversation

After years of meaning to read Octavia Butler's work, I finished Lilith's Brood yesterday, and now I want to talk about it.

In the end, I'm not completely certain what to make of this book. For an author I have so often heard described as feminist and ground-breaking, I was surprised to find so much gender essentialism and heteronormativity, along with such strong "biology is destiny" themes. In a conversation with my friend S, she pointed out that feminism in the late 1980s (when these books were written) was quite gender essentialist and heteronormative, so it may be a product of its times, but the heteronormativity, especially, struck me right away and kept bothering me throughout. Also bothersome: the pervasiveness of sexual situations wherein the consent is dubious at best. This book features coerced sex, forced pregnancy, and all kinds of invasions of bodily autonomy. Unlike with the previous issues, the idea of questionable consent is raised throughout -- the reader is forced to notice it, and think about it. So I'm pretty sure I was meant to find it disturbing and uncomfortable, but I can't be 100% sure. I'll need to sit with it for awhile.

All that said, it was an impressive book , especially for a debut novel [edit: I was incorrect about this, not sure where I got that impression, thanks to [personal profile] firecat for the correction], and I'm glad to have read it. But more than anything, I'm left wanting to discuss it, and I'm sure at least some of you have read it. So, what are your thoughts?

Other topics for conversation: the social structure of the Oankali, the book's critiques of colonialism, the implications of an Earth left bereft of technology and repopulated almost entirely by people of color, and whether human nature is really as bleak and terrible as it's depicted here.

This entry is also posted at There are currently comment count unavailable comments on DW.
  • Current Music
    "Indoor Swimming at the Space Station" - Eluvium
  • Tags