I just finished Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. It is truly the answer to my constant question of “where are all the people of color in dystopian fiction?” Post Apocolyptic America is a huge theme in young adult fiction (Delirium, the Hunger Games, Matched, etc.) right now, as well as fiction in general, especially if you include the zombie themed writing (World War Z, The Walking Dead). The difference between YA dystopian lit and World War Z and The Walking Dead is its curious lack of diversity. (World War Z happens all over the world. The Walking Dead graphic novel is way more diverse then the TV show.) This lack of diversity in the main characters was really annoying to me. It’s not the world I live in nor the world of many of my friends.
Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower starts in 2024 and takes us through September 2028 in Southern California. Written in 1993, Butler creates a Southern california and a United States that is seriously resembles issues that we currently face in 2012. The issues the characters face in the story aren’t on the door step of Main Street but they are definitely around the corner. The main character, Lauren Olamina, sees the writing on the wall and decides that being prepared is better then being complacent. The story begins when she is fifteen and takes us through the events that shift her world and disrupt her community. I feel like I can’t say too much about the plot without spelling out major spoilers, which I hate. I will say that an important theme is how Lauren’s understands God and the development of the Earthseed. This is threaded throughout her recolletion of events that make the plot but its not overwhelming or disrupting the plot.
I really enjoyed this book.
Things I learned and hope to include improve in my writing (I will try not to include any spoilers.:
– using clean and simple language. The story is told through entries in Lauren’s diary, a young girl, so it lacks the flowery descriptive language in which I tend to get myself caught up in order to show and not tell. I didn’t feel like I was being “told” anything. I felt that I saw exactly what needed to be seen.
– the characters were people, diverse people, not caricatures of people of color though race was still an issue in the story. This was not at all a panracial world in which Lauren lived, which I appreciate as a person of color. Lauren describes how race impacts the relationships within her community. Each character is like a person any of us might know but because of the situations that pull them together and Lauren’s knowledge of how the world works, there are very real descriptions of their race and gender effect there lives. Each character has lost a lot.
There is so much more but I’m struggling to write about it because I don’t want to spoil the book for you. I just really hope everyone gives Octavia Butler a try!