Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler

I've heard many good things about the writing of Octavia Butler, so I finally read one of her works; it definitely won't be my last. Wild Seed which was first published in 1980, and this genre bending book is a combination science fiction/fairy tale.

Blurb from the back of the book: Anyanwu is all that is female: She can birth tribes, heal with kisses, and transform into anything she forces herself to be. Doro is all that is male: He possesses, seduces, hunts, and kills, raising armies and bending empires to his will. One cannot die, the other cannot be killed. They are all that is human and far more.

What happens when a man who cannot die and has lived for thousands of years meets a 300 year-old shape-shifter woman who can heal herself almost immediately? What happens if this man sees in her a woman he can breed with to create a super race with human controlling powers?

I loved this story because I loved Anyanwu. She is kind, good, a healer, but she can be ferocious when she needs to be. This story made me wonder what I would change myself to be if I could be anything - what would be my natural state? This story shows how women are often controlled by pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. This is a story of power and of rights and how the imbalance of power effects rights.

This story also reminds me of the cult I left as teen. Doro is all about inbreeding to create his master race just as the cult of my childhood was. I found myself, with pencil in hand, annotating all through this book.

Quotes I liked:

"Sometimes, one must become a master to avoid becoming a slave" (10).

"I have seen that people must be their own gods and make their own good fortune. The bad will come or not come anyway" (20).

"People often hesitated to challenge a man who seemed important and purposeful" (28).

"Though she came from a culture in which wives literally belonged to their husbands, she had power and her power had made her independent, accustomed to being her own person. She did not yet realize that she had walked away from that independence when she walked away from her people with him" (29).

"But once she was isolated in America with an infant to care for, she would learn submissiveness" (29).

"She sought to make him value her and care for her. Thus she might have some leverage with him, some control over him later when she needed it. Much married as she was, she knew she would eventually need it" (33).

When Doro is upset that she travels in the body of a man, she says, "People will think before they attack a man - even a small man. And they will not become as angry if a man gives them a beating" (41).

"Civilization is the way one's own people live. Savagery is the way foreigners live" (110).

Read to a child today even if that child is you.

Maggie donated these books to the NICU along with a box of books for local Little Free Libraries. Thank you, Maggie. 

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit so their parents can read to them while they grow. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address. We can use both English and Spanish books. If you have a graduate of the NICU, or if you have a baby whose life you would like to honor by donating books to this project, let me know, and I can make a book plate with their name for the books you donate.

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