Autostraddle will be hosting two book clubs during this time of social distancing, one featuring dystopian fiction and one featuring escapist fiction. This is the dystopian one!
Welcome to Autostraddle’s book club, where we pick a book and all read it together and then talk about it. As we are now actively living in a dystopian present at the start of the 2020s, some of the writers thought, “what better to read than Octavia Butler’s 1993 dystopian novel that takes place in the 2020s, Parable of the Sower?”
The first in two-book series, Parable centers on “hyperempath” Lauren Oya Olamina and her experiences traveling a post-societally collapsed United States. We follow Lauren as she travels from her broken home and awakens to a new spiritual belief system, realizing that humankind is destined for something more.
This will be my first Octavia Butler novel! I’ve honestly been wanting to read one of her novels for quite some time, but felt like it was something that I needed to do with my community. I don’t want to enter into her world alone, you know? And lately, amidst all of the fear I’m feeling, I’ve also found myself feeling a significant amount of hope and joy. The ways in which our communities are holding each other up, demanding protections for the least of us, and coming together to bring each other joy has lifted my spirit during this uncertainty. I’m also really excited because my library has an audiobook copy of the book available, and there’s something really comforting about dystopian literature being read aloud to me.
Megan: I’ve always been a fan of forward-looking, personal science fiction that deviates from the genre’s tendency towards action-movie tropes. I read Butler’s work Kindred as a teenager, and so when I heard about Parable of the Sower many years later, I was excited to check out another book by a fantastic author I’d all but forgotten.
I’m an analog gal, when it comes to reading- nothing compares to the smell and feel of an old paperback book, so I have a secondhand copy and a big squishy chair all ready to go!
Jehan: I read Butler for the first time in a college course on Black Mythic Fiction. We read Wild Seed and I was amazed at how she reckons with the sins of past generations. And then I read Kindred, where Butler examines those sins and their implications in the present.
Her books require a lot of you—they’re amazing but heartbreaking—and so I’ve put off Parable of the Sower for quite a while, even though I’ve known I need it. But now seems like a time when this book is even more necessary. So much of Butler’s writing is about the worlds possible to us as we heal our collective traumas, so I’m ready for all her ancestral wisdom! I’m also an analog person, Megan, so I’m excited to dust off my copy and dive in!