LLAGNY Graphic Book Club‘s February selection — Kindred – honored African American History Month.

The graphic novel , based on Octavia Butler‘s 1979 science fiction work, explores slavery through the unique prism of time travel.  The main characters toggle between 1970s San Francisco and Antebellum South.  Female protagonist Dana experiences slavery’s horrors and discovers that her family history  – the “kindred” of the title – involves both slaves and their owner. 

As with all graphic works adopted from an original prose source, there is the question of whether the illustrations can be as effective as the author’s own words. Artists Damian Duffy and John Jennings had concerns about adapting this well loved classic, but attendees who read both versions believed that each medium presented the grim and relentless violence in unique ways.

The graphic novel was compelling, immediately drawing readers into a series of harrowing experiences. As slaves were constantly sold off, some readers experienced confusion with keeping track of characters. This only shadows the real life heartbreak of humans forever losing family and friends.

Readers saw Dana and Kevin as heroic – their efforts result in incremental victories: two humans are freed, and a few more empowered by becoming literate. The mindset that views enslaved Africans as property is presented as all pervasive. Readers felt they came to more fully understand the cruel evils of slavery by experiencing its relentless and hopelessness through the eyes of finely sketched and fully realized characters.