Emergent Strategies for Social Justice Workshop with Adrienne Maree Brown and Tananarive Due

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As a part of the Octavia E. Butler Celebration of Arts and Activism at Spelman College, Adrienne Maree Brown’s Emergent Strategies Workshop looked at ways to use Butler’s work in the field of social justice. Brown is the co-editor of the forthcoming book Octavia’s Brood: Sci-Fi from Social Movements. It’s scheduled to arrive summer 2014.

 

http://www.octaviasbrood.com/index.php

 

 

 

 

 

New MLA Approaches Volume in Preparation

A new volume in the MLA Approaches to Teaching World Literature series is being proposed: Approaches to Teaching the Works of Octavia E. Butler, edited by Tarshia L. Stanley.

You don’t need to be a member of MLA to access the survey. Please click on the link to visit the survey and share your experiences teaching Butler’s work in the classroom. You may also propose an essay to contribute to the collection.

http://www.mla.org/publications/publication_program/approaches

The God Talk: Butler’s Earthseed Tenet

All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
Is Change.

God
Is Change.

This Earthseed tenet from Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower remains relevant and rings true today. I interpreted this tenet as follows:

If and because we change everything that we touch and are ourselves changed, I believe we must touch with intent. We must touch gently, with the hopes of doing good, and enacting change that is positive. We must make sure our hands are clean, and we must appreciate the change. This tenet requires the reader to be diligent, and thoughtful and to move through everyday life with a certain level of consciousness.

We are only left with the impact of our actions. We don’t all see the “touch,” but we do see the change that results from that. The only thing that will ever remain true and indisputable is that the impact of our actions will be what is visible–those impacts will continue to change and evolve as the people who are responsible for their catalyst do.

If God is change, he is then the only lasting truth. He is what’s left when everything else has come and gone. But what about change that is bad? Does this cancel out because bad is only relative and what I consider bad, someone else considers good? Or does the opportunity for God to be “bad” give him or her human qualities that we often times don’t have access to or see in traditional proselytizing religions? If God is change and we are change, does this give us the opportunity to be God?

I ask these questions because I truly do not have the answers. What does Butler want us to take away from this tenet and particularly the idea that God is change? If we are our own Gods, does this allow and lead to chaos and dysfunction?

Let me know what you think.

 

Reason Doesn’t Live Here: Octavia Butler’s Fledgling

So much of our world and society is divided into systems and categories. Beneficial? Sure, sometimes, but more often than not, these categories are used to divide us and highlight our differences. Today, it’s easy to think about how many categories we have, and surrounding my immediate world and existence there are a myriad of them; within the natural hair world, there is hair-typing, colleges have ranks and divisions, and within communities of color, there is often tension between those who are lighter and those who are darker. With so many systems and people so quick to categorize, I try to keep myself out of anyone’s box. Hair type? Mine. College? Expensive. Light or dark? Neither. The same applies in Octavia Butler’s Fledgling. Shori is a fifty-three-year-old vampire who appears to be eleven or twelve to humans. She is different, because she is the product of an experiment that made her darker than the traditional pale-skinned vampires through the use of melanin. Because of this melanin, she is able to go out into the sun, whereas those without melanin are restricted to going out only at night and sleeping during the day. Although this genetic change enhances Shori’s quality of life and can do the same for other vampires, other Ina have begun to attack her community and her family because of her dark(er) skin. Butler, through Shori and her symbionts and enemies, tells a story that we all know too well. This isn’t the first narrative of someone being attacked for the color of his/her skin. During the Civil Rights Era, the Ku Klux Klan were prominent in their attacks on African-Americans. Segregation was found in schools all over the country until the Brown v. Board of Education deemed that separate but equal was inherently unequal–and even then, not all schools were integrated. What Butler best highlights in Fledgling is that bigotry is not rooted in reason. The logical step for the Silks (lighter Inas) who cannot go into the sun would be to undergo the same treatment that Shori did; instead, they act maliciously. The Silks efforts backfire, as they have now lost all of their sons, meaning their family name will die. Their is no reward in categorization and bigotry. Though the punishment may not be immediate, it is imminent.

Present Parents For Children and Young Adults

Last week during our Butler’s Daughter’s class,  the discussion had touched on how many science fiction novels, especially young adult genre, has had an absent of parents or the parents were present but did not have an active role or any clue to what their children were doing.  Although Professor Tananarive Due’s novel My Soul to Take and the whole series before this last fourth novel, incorporate the parents of Fana, Dr. Stanley pointed out  how in culture popular science fiction novels, such as the Twilight, does not include active parents in the protagonist’s life if it is a coming of age story for a young teen/adult.  I thought this would be a great topic to blog about after hearing a discussion on the radio about single parents, particularly single mothers raising young males, who do not know how to motivate their children.  One mother discussed how her son, a high-schooler, told her that he did not like school and wish he did not have to.  Many parents send their children to school and expect the school system to teach them and motivate them but doesn’t these values need to be instilled in the home first?

In regards to Due’s novels, Fana’s parents are present in her life and also try to steer her to make the right decisions and keep her out of harm’s way however they do not control her life and let her makes her own decisions.  I am very family oriented myself and when I left my home in New Jersey to come to Atlanta, Georgia to attend Spelman College, I slightly felt like I was being dropped off in an unknown world but I had to remember  that I made this decision and that my parents will be there for me even if they are miles away.  My mother’s words of encouragement kept me strong first semester although I cried when she left for the airport after New Students’ Orientation.  It was her endless support, words of encouragement, and constant reminder of how proud she was of me that motivated me to keep striving to do my best.

Now as a graduating senior, I appreciate that Due composed a storyline of a young female protagonist who was trying to find herself and live her life but still had her parents through it all.  Fana says, “A CHILD’S HAPPINESS SPREADS TO THE PARENTS” (242) and with this quote, I believe that if parents took the time to find out what their children wanted out of life or they showed them what they can get out of life if they work hard and continue to dream and believe in themselves then they would be able to find a way to motivate them down that path without forcing them into something they do not want to do.

You’re Never Too Old to Have a Bildungsroman

Last week I had the pleasure of reading My Soul To Take by author (and my professor) Tananarive Due. My Soul To Take is the last book in The African Immortals Series, and initially I had my reservations about reading the last book in a series that was as revered as this one was; however, upon completion I came to the realization that I was able to seamlessly read the novel sans feeling lost or feeling like I was missing something. One of the reasons I think I was able to read the novel with ease is because it had a stand-alone theme that was very familiar to me–the coming of age story, also known a bildungsroman. I’ll be honest: until about three months ago I had never heard that word before, and if asked what it was I would have guessed that it was some western European torture device, thankfully it is not! For those of you, like myself three short months ago, who don’t know, a bildungsroman is just the long fancy word meaning a coming of age tale or story. What I like about the bildungsroman is that no matter how old a person is, they can always relate to the story being told in one way or another. However, in the case of My Soul To Take the persons coming of age just so happen to be adults and born immortals…Yes, you read that correctly, Tananarive Due was able to tell the story of two immortal beings “coming of age”. How did she make this happen, she tapped into the fear of most people–turning into their parents. In the novel one of the two immortal born beings is a male named Michel, and Michel seems like one nasty guy with unrivaled psychokinetic powers, who intends to cleanse the world of humankind. But believe it or not, Michel in all of his awesome (and terrifying) power, is still subject to the Oedipus complex, where he longs for the mother he never had and seeks to become his own man in spite of his father. Although, we are introduced to Michel as one of the most powerful beings on Earth, the fact that he is struggling to define himself apart from his father is humanizing and makes him relatable. Learning that even an immortal being goes through change and the uncertainty of “growing up”, makes me continue to value the work of speculative fiction writers like Due and Butler, who are able to tell stories of the fantastical and frightening that are entertaining while being relevant an relatable to real life. After reading My Soul To Take and encountering an adult immortal’s coming of age struggle, I find  comfort in knowing that you’re never too old to have a bildungsroman.