“A brilliantly mythic tale of primal archetypes and an iconic exploration of gender and eternity” proclaims the book. And it is. This is the story of two immortals, one who cannot die and one who cannot be killed. It starts in inland West Africa, goes to the coast and a wooden sailing ship to cross the Atlantic, landing in 17th century upstate New York. Butler weaves in history and culture along the way. Anyanwu (female) and Doro (a being who transmigrates to new bodies often) are both seen as gods by some of their people. In them we see the struggle between passion and ambition, love and hate. FYI there is lots of death along the way especially every time Doro needs a new body. Anyanwu calls him out for his lack of value for people who served him in his breeding plantations. In Anwanyu’s feelings, perceptions, and strategies of resistance to Doro I see the kind of thinking unfree people of the United States (or anywhere, for that matter) go through to survive as best they can. I was particularly taken with this observation by Anyanwu, now in pre-Civil War Louisiana:
“Haven’t you seen the men slaves in this country who are used for breeding? They are never permitted to learn what it means to be a man. They are not permitted to care for their children. Among my people, children are wealth, they are better than money, better than anything. but to these men, warped and twisted by their masters, children are almost nothing. They are to boast of to other men. One thinks he is greater than another because he has more children. Both exaggerate the number of women who have borne them children, neither is doing anything a father should for his children, and the master who is indifferently selling off his own brown children is laughing and saying, ‘You see, N______s are just like animals!’ Slavery down here opens one’s eyes, Doro. How could I want such a life for my son?” [Warner books edition, chapter 11, pp. 229-230]
There is much to think about here.
— Submitted by Beth Bartholomew