I first experienced Octavia Butler's science-fiction truth-telling in college and I got hooked. Her novel Parable of the Sower is receiving a lot of attention right now as it was published in 1993 and set in 2024. The future as she writes it feels eerily possible, based on how the last year or two have gone.


But Kindred shook me for its beautiful approach to loss, severance of self, reclamation of self, and the complexities of lineage. In this piece the outter most piece of tweed is applied with the "inside" of the fabric facing outward. It's a tiny detail, but that piece of fabric and its stringy trail represents severance -- perhaps of a part of one's self. 


In an interview about Kindred once, Butler stated that the meaning of the amputation is clear enough: “I couldn’t really let her come all the way back. I couldn’t let her return to what she was, I couldn’t let her come back whole and that, I think, really symbolizes her not coming back whole. Antebellum slavery didn’t leave people quite whole.”


I wonder if this is true of other traumas, too. Do we lose a part of ourselves and to what degree is the void permanent? Or does something grow in its place creating a different kind of "wholeness"?




"I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm. And I lost about a year of my life and much of the comfort and security I had not valued until it was gone." -- Opening lines from Octavia Butler's Kindred, published in 1979.


5x8x1.5; mixed media collage (tweed, cotton, gold wire, wood beads); 2020; unframed

The Possible Wholeness of Being