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Seed to Harvest - Octavia E. Butler I just reread this compilation of 4 of the novels of her Patternist series, as well as the other one, Lilith's Brood, which is a compilation of her 3 novels of the Xenogenesis series. She's one of my favorite writers ever. I had to go just now and bump her up on my list. The themes she gets at are so important.

With the whole relationship between Doro and Anyanwu, I sort of saw my mother and father's connection to each other again. Doro just operates by force to get his needs met and make what he wants happen. Anyanwu builds families, communities around her that are based on give and take, on her caring for her people. Doro loves his people, too, but he can't seem to see their needs as mattering compared to his needs or wants. He has the power to enforce his wishes, and he just does that. Anwanyu tries and tries to explain to him what he's doing wrong, but he can't hear her. Only after centuries when she is about to self-destruct, to leave him in the only way she can, does he realize she really matters enough to him for him to change a small amount, for him to make a few concessions. Butler seems to understand deeply the interaction of power and coercion with love and need in people's connections.

It brings to mind for me the civil rights movement, when one activist said they thought they would be able to shame white people into doing what's right, then later he realized they had to win their rights. It was a contest and white people weren't going to willingly give up their advantages. It makes me hear again my mother saying to my dad, "you can bully people into doing a lot of things, but you can't bully people into loving you."

Butler sees humanity very clearly with all their fear, their irrational anger and hate, and their unwillingness to accept new ideas. But she sees them in a loving way, too. She loves her characters, I think, even the ones like Doro who persist in doing evil stuff. And what I like about her most is how she can take a story that has an ending nobody would call happy, and somehow make a new way of life out of it. Her characters survive. They adapt. They accept a new normal, even if it's a form of slavery or some other lack of freedom and self determination. They change almost beyond recognition if they have to, and they manage to live and find good in living. She's an amazing writer.