10. “The Devil’s Arithmetic” by Jane Yolen & “Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler
Both novels use time travel to illuminate horrific moments of history — “The Devil’s Arithmetic” sending its protagonist to the Holocaust and “Kindred” sending Dana to the slave quarters of antebellum South. The 26-year-old Dana travels back and forth, though, jumping between her happy life in California and life-threatening experiences as a slave until she figures out what she’s being sent back to do.
Do you agree these were good compliments? What did you think of the books themselves?
Note: I have linked my reviews to each of the respective books as the titles in the beginning of this post. Also, if you have not read the books, I will likely have spoilers below so watch out!
These books are extremely good compliments although I’m not sure I’d say that “Kindred” is necessarily something that you’d have to read later as an adult. Both books would certainly be accessibly at similar ages although I will grant that “The Devil’s Arithmetic” is written more for a younger audience.
Because both protagonists time travel to the historical period they’re trying to survive in, both have stories that become much more visceral and a modern twist on them. That modern perspective on each of the stories is what I think makes them particularly relatable when reading.
Though I had heard folks compare the Holocaust to slavery, I had not thought through the implications fully. Jews had been poorly treated and had many rights taken away from them leading up to the work / death camps, but they were never considered property. African Americans on the other hand were subjected to long-term misery and were considered property. Is one type of horror worse than the other? Slavery certainly was lasted for generations, which is also hard to compare. One could make the argument either way, but I don’t know that anyone “wins” from that debate. Simplifying the issue, both situation should never have ever occurred and I think it’s extremely important to have education of both beyond what is presented in school.
I’d consider both of these required reading if you haven’t read them already, but keep something to snuggle with nearby as they’re going to be emotionally intense.