Not Oprah’s Book Club: Parable of the Talents

God is change.

This is the main belief of Earthseed, a new religion developed and popularized by the main character in Octavia Butler’s Nebula-Award winning science fiction novel, Parable of the Talents. Since plowing through her book last week, those three little words have floated to the top of my brain many, many times.

As someone interested in morality and faith, this book couldn’t have been more interesting. Essentially, it is about the relationship between a daughter and a mother, both aiming to survive in dystopian America where evangelical religion, violence, and ignorance have taken hold in a frightening way. Lauren Oya Olamina, the mother, is a fierce, single-focused, survivalist who has charismatic leadership qualities and, arguably, prizes her ideas above her family at times.

As I was reading about the tension between Lauren’s dreams of building a better world through Earthseed, and her commitment to her own husband and daughter, I couldn’t help but think of famous mother-daughter tensions, like that between Rebecca and Alice Walker. Butler does a skillful job of laying out the complexities of such commitments—loving your ideas and your vision of your role in making a better world, balanced (or not) with your love of your family. She doesn’t fall into the temptation of giving pat answers, making either the daughter or the mother “right” or “wrong,” “good” or “bad.” Instead, she illustrates, through this fascinating future world, that these basic human tensions never go away. Nothing is stagnant. There is no easy fix. God is change.

I can’t wait to get my hands on my next Butler book. Many a friend told me that she is a must-read for feminist visionaries. They couldn’t have been more right.

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