Octavia E. Butler
Grand Central Publishing
Continuing with my commitment to reading diversity, I picked this one up. As my first Octavia Bulter experience, Fledgling surprised me. I have enjoyed vampire stories since my Bunnicula days and usually they have a heavy accent and super pale skin. Vlah! Vlah! Vlah!
"I don't say Vlah Vlah Vlah!"
In this beautifully told tale, Butler builds us the world of the Ina, a species of vampire that live just on the outskirts of human civilization for over ten thousand years. Many common vampire rules are thrown out. And then there is her exploration of power dynamics in relationships which at times could be very uncomfortable.
The story begins with Shori, a young girl with severe memory loss, that will walk us through the discovery of who she is, what she is. She has the appearance of a preteen African American child, and since her skin is dark, she can survive sunlight; something other Ina cannot do.
Ina live in families. They are born, not made. There human symbionts, humans whose blood sustains them, but they don't kill, live among them in a symbiotic relationship. As the story continues, Shori learns what she is and finds Ina and humans to start her own family group. Some of her kin start to tell her what happened, the terrible attack that killed her entire family and left left her alone, afraid, and without memories. After finding out what she is, she must take the next reasonable step, find out who is responsible.
Since Shori looks like a child and has sexual relationships, this book is often labeled problematic or endorsing pedophilia in a healthy way. I saw it that way at first, but she is actually 53 and that is just a young Ina. I flopped back and forth with the disgust of child sex and the fact that some women can look like a 12 year old as an adult. I know a few. So where do we draw the line? I perfer to just let the reader figure that out for themselves.
In Fledgling, Butler uses the Ina people's prejudices and fears as a stand-in for our own culture's inherent racism. The last several weeks have been busy with a racial revolution. This novel shows us clearly why it needs to happen. I could rant about how white treat BIPOC and LGBT+ in America, but I think you'd only have to go outside and open your eyes to see everything.