While reading Xhercis Méndez’s article “Confronting the Rhetoric of ‘Black on Black Crime’: A Response to Derailing Strategies,” I was struck by what she wrote about how in minority activists’ quests to draw attention to issues in their communities, “communities and injustices become minoritized in their isolation from one another.” This got me thinking about the way that different groups in Butler’s work isolate themselves from each other, to the detriment of all. Ultimately, this brought me back to the questions we started the semester with: “what brings people together” and “what keeps people together?” Continue reading Tribalism in Clay’s Ark
Shama Nathan, of the Feminist Wire, recalls a time when she realized her privilege. While on vacation she encounters a young man who’s compliment “you talk like a white person” followed by “that’s why you’re smart.” Privilege surrounds every aspect of life. Nathan correlates whiteness to superiority. Octavia Butler weaves privilege in her texts, through her characters. Specifically in Clay’s Ark, Blake exhibits his privilege within the text. Blake’s status as a white doctor stresses his high-class status. Continue reading Blake’s Privilege
After I finished Octavia Butler’s Mind of My Mind, it occurred to me that my opinion of Mary drastically changed from the beginning of the book to the end. At the beginning, I actually found her to be quite likable because she was a typical teenager (besides her telepathic abilities) that was trying to find her way in life. By the end, I couldn’t stand her because she became so power hungry that she wanted to control anything and everything that was involved in her pattern. Ever since she was born, she was considered to be a huge success of Doro’s inbreeding program. In terms of telepathics, she was elite. However, being a black telepath exposed her to being condemned for the color of her skin instead of her actions. The effect of this was exemplified when Karl showed distaste towards Mary. At first, she automatically assumed it was because of her race and asked him how he felt about black people. Because this was not the case, Karl corrected her by stating that him not wanting her in his house had nothing to do with her being black. It had to do with the fact that he simply did not like her.
In Kashana Cauley’s article “I’m a Black Gentrifier, But My Success Is Invisible”, she was repeatedly asked if she was an East Village native because she was African American. Although she wasn’t ashamed of her race, she felt like it made her successes as a lawyer completely invisible to people in her neighborhood. She discusses how black individuals aren’t associated with being a part of the middle class and are typically considered to be an “other”. Kashana considers herself to be a black gentrifier, because she is part of a gentrifier group who is willing to pay high rent and had a successful job. Although she acknowledged that being a gentrifier isn’t always compliment, she explains that “we are the college-educated or entrepreneurial descendants of black people who had fewer opportunities than we had. We make the sort of money that college-educated and entrepreneurial white people make. We move to neighborhoods like the East Village because we are attracted to the same things as everyone else who moves there: the trendy and nationally-known restaurants and bars, the excellent shopping, the dog run and community events in Tompkins Square Park, the newly renovated running path along the East River.” Once Kashana moved to Prospect Heights, she felt more comfortable with her identity as a successful black lawyer. This was because of the fact that many hardworking individuals of color lived there. As a result, it’s inhabitants did not automatically classify her as an “other” because of her race.
So, how both of these texts relate to one another? Before she gained control of her fellow telepaths within her pattern, Mary was out-casted. Everyone hated her, and Jesse tried to bring everyone together in order to overthrow her. Although it may not have been for the right reasons, Mary was successful in terms of having an elite telepathic ability and being able to gather many individuals within her pattern. On the other hand, when she lived in East Village, Kashana Cauley was automatically assumed to be a member of a lower class because of her race despite the fact that she was a lawyer and had a professional and successful career.
During our discussion in which we were to place the blame of the microbe epidemic on a specific character in Clay’s Ark, many of us pointed out Eli’s disastrous plan to keep the disease contained within a small settlement; every now and then infecting and adding new people into the fold. But it was Kayla’s comparison of the Clay’s Ark disease to AIDS that truly piqued my interest. In fact, I was quite upset that I had never made the parallel whilst I was reading the novel. As many of you know, AIDS when not combated with the proper therapy and medicine can kill rather quickly. Looking back, I can’t help but think of Eli as he attempted to help newcomers with proper treatment and training. His insightful knowledge of the microbe disease helped him keep his people alive and even proved to keep Keira alive when her survival was doubtful.
In 2013, the movie Dallas Buyers Club, briefly detailing Ron Woodroof’s fight against AIDS and prejudice through an underground medicinal market for individuals with HIV/AIDS,
premiered at theaters across the country and garnered commercial and critical success. Continue reading Hero? Villain? Neither?
Considering that much of Clay’s Ark has been dealing with the infiltration of microbes into the biological systems of humans, I was slightly terrified when I happened upon this article that refers to the study of a particular microbe in soil and its effect on humans. I’m not sure how reputable “gardeningknowhow.com” is, but the resources that the article sites seem to come from reliable sources.
Gardening Know How’s article mainly speaks about a microbe found in soil that’s recently been connected to serotonin levels and therefore mental illness issues. On the other hand, the Discover Magazine Resource speaks of a hypothesis that states that asthma and allergies may be linked to our society’s habit of “living too clean” where we remove many of the necessary microbes that train our immune systems to ignore benign threats like pollen and pet dandruff. And lastly, the Sage College Resource links the microbes in soil to anxiety relief and therefore learning benefits. These articles are truly an interesting read and an eye-opener to the beneficial microbes we unknowingly come in contact with every day.
To me, the idea of cannibalism seems to pervade Seed to Harvest—something that makes sense with the general theme of symbiosis which keeps coming back in Butler’s fiction. Multiple forms of cannibalism are created in the constant consumption with which Butler deals. In these uses though, what comes to light is actually how consumption—and the total absorption of another person—is completely tied to community and culture and demonstrates the inherent violence in development and fungiblity of bodies. Continue reading Cannibals in Communities
In class, we discussed gentrification in the sense of Mind of My Mind. The Feminist Wire’s, Madhu Dubey explores oppression within the text in his article Octavia Butler’s Novels of Enslavement. He introduces the idea of the “binary logic of racial difference” (Dubey, 352). Within Mind of My Mind, Mary gentrifies her area to continue growing her town of latent converts. Mary represents the binary logic of racial difference because of the remnants of oppression that she serves to the community. She labels those who cannot hear her pattern as mutes, who were once the norm in society. Dubey parallels the term mutes with niggers. He is completely accurate in the correlation. The culture of Patternist’s made themselves superior to everyone else in the community. As the population increased, they pushed the “mutes” out with the justification of a need for more space. Continue reading Gentrified within Formal Culture
Our group discussion on urbanization and the phenomenon of gentrification has had me thinking about how communities, especially urban communities, are maintained through a series of inclusions and exclusions that manifest in space. In Octavia Butler’s Mind of My Mind, the ways in which Mary and the Patternists (not the band) build Forsyth as a site for their growth as a community involve the attraction of “actives” and the recruitment of “latents” towards Forsyth. As they grow they infiltrate pre-existing homes, schools, as well as other types of facilities in the community, which always entails an implicit corollary “eviction” or forced removal of the non-telepathic “mutes” who had previously inhabited these spaces. As Mary’s desired utopia grows, the marginal bodies that cannot coexist as equal members of the community, due to their lack of “abilities,” are displaced.
During class last Friday, we talked about our emotional reactions to the end of Mind of My Mind. Admist the trauma of Doro’s and Emma’s death, as well as Mary’s victory, I found myself mourning for the 154 Patternists lost during the concluding battle. It seemed to be something akin to genocide, the senseless killings of civilians who are usually the innocent consequences of war. In World War Two alone, the ratio of civilian deaths to solider deaths was 2:1 (I know we weren’t supposed to place outside sources in this blog post, but I just wanted to build some perspective). These civilians were usually just like us; ordinary people with no strong political or military affiliations. Most may be even against the war that they are involved in, or at least somewhat ignorant of it. In the same way these Patternists were ignorant of the war that was going on around them (and that they were involved in). According to the book, most of the more recent Patternists didn’t even know what Doro looked like, or anything beyond his place as the “creator of the creator” of the Pattern. They wouldn’t be able to understand the risk that they were taking when they were roped into Mary’s strength taking.
Kayla V. made a really great post about Doro’s relationship to the seed people and its similarities to what whiteness is to black people, as Rajanie Kumar discusses in the article “White Terror: Spirituality, Ancestral Memory, and the Politics of Remembering” on The Feminist Wire. After reading both the post and the article, I started thinking about the bodies Doro chose at different times, and what the significance of those choices were.