Sunday, May 17, 2020

Two books by Black women: Kindred and Tough Love

Kindred, by Octavia Butler

How have I never read Octavia Butler until now, for goodness sake?!?!? My dear friend Catherine gave me this book for Mother's Day, and it was the perfect distraction for a pandemic. It had been on my "to read" list for a while, but when it landed in my lap, I had to read it.

I have always loved time travel, but this time travel is far more serious than usual. Written and set in 1976, this book finds 26-year-old Dana suddenly flung back into the antebellum south to save a drowning white boy. It turns out that he is one of her ancestors. Over the course of several years (in the time travel south) or days in the present, Dana ends up back on this plantation over and over again, each time to rescue clueless and careless Rufus.

It goes about as you might imagine. Slavery was brutal and tragic and soul-destroying...but many enslaved people found the strength to attempt escape or stay captive and endure. Apparently Butler's critics said she softened the horrors of slavery in this book, but it was horrible enough to understand that it was often far worse.

I will remember this book for a very long time to come, and I stayed up late into the evening to finish it. So worth the read!

Tough Love, by Susan Rice

While I was reading Kindred, I was listening to Tough Love by Dr. Susan Rice. Tough Love represents the life of a highly successful, highly educated Black woman, 44 years after Kindred was written by another Black woman.

Truth be told, I didn't know much about Susan Rice until I heard her interviewed on a podcast. She struck me as incredibly bright, funny, and capable, so when I saw she'd written a book I was immediately intrigued.

Most people associate her with Benghazi, because unfortunately she was tasked with being the spokesperson for the Obama administration after the Benghazi attack and then she became a scapegoat for the right wing, in spite of all investigations finding that she did nothing wrong. She continues to be vilified by Republicans to this day. She's now on the list of potential candidates for VP for Joe Biden. Her parents were both highly accomplished educators...her dad was a Cornell professor and her mom was an educational policy scholar who helped design the Pell Grant system. Rice was raised amidst the political and policy world, mentored by Madeleine Albright, headed to Stanford for her undergrad degree (to the chagrin of her parents, who wanted her to go to Harvard), studied at Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship, and earned her M.Phil and Ph.D. there. She worked on the Dukakis campaign and served for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama while they were presidents.

This book is packed with stories about her childhood and young adulthood, diplomacy and policy work here and overseas, and family. She married her college sweetheart and has two children--one a diehard liberal and the other a Trump supporter. Yikes!

Susan Rice is a rock star, and I enjoyed learning about all she's accomplished in her time on earth.

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