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Diverse Writer Project Part 1

Brandon Castaneda
Diversity in American Literature

For this project, I have decided to look into the author Octavia E. Butler. I chose her

because she seemed like a very interesting author, and I enjoy science fiction books. Researching

her has been insightful. For this specific essay, I am going to look into her background to see

how her early life affected her life as a writer.

Octavia Estelle Butler was born in 1947. Her father, Laurice James Butler, passed away

when she was very young. So, she didnt have a great father figure in her life. She was raised by

her mother, also named Octavia. She lived a large majority of her life with her mother and aunts.

Her family followed the Baptist religion. Her mother worked as a maid, so she was introduced to

a hardworking lifestyle by her family.

Butler was known to be very shy, and tall. She also suffered from dyslexia, but this didnt

hurt her chances of writing books. She wouldnt let it. At age 10, Butler decided to make her

lifes work writing.

Her first breakthrough in writing was due to a novel called Kindred. Which draws

inspiration from her mothers job. It is a story about an African-American woman who travels

back in time to saver her white slave owning ancestor. This book is a great example of the type

of science fiction books that she liked to write. They are based on real world experiences but

given twists to them that makes them both more interesting, as well as different. Her writing

career flourished from there.

She developed her love of writing science fiction due to a terrible movie, called Devil

Girl from Mars. Butler had the thought that she could write a better story than that movie. She

was very confused that someone got paid for writing that crappy film.

I think that she is a very inspirational author. Not only because she writes incredible

pieces, but because of the things she has had to go through to be successful. Butler has seen more

than her fair share of marginalization. She had to deal with Racism, Sexism, and made fun of

because of her disability.

Octavia Butler was an African-American woman born in the 40s. You dont need

examples to know that she was the subject of racism. During the 40s, racism wasnt as bad as it

used to be if you compare it to when Blacks were actually slaves. She would have been too

young to remember much about her early life in dealing with racism. But during the 1950s and

60s she would have had to deal with the Jim Crow laws. Which was racial segregation by the

ruling class during the time, which was the whites. But in 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that
segregation in schools was considered illegal Lynching. However, the Southern Democratic

party fought to keep the Jim Crow system. Also during that time, African-Americans had to deal

with the Ku Klux Klan. So, with all that information, one can only think about the horrors that

she had to face during her young years.

During Butlers high school years, she had undiagnosed dyslexia. This made her

schooling more difficult. And by the age of 15, she had grown to around six feet tall. This

wasnt the only thing that made her stand out. In total, she was a six-foot-tall, dyslexic African-

American woman. These facts would have made it very hard to blend in with the high school

crowds. So, instead of blending into the crowd, she spent her time in the library. Spending so

much time in the Pasadena library did wonders in her abilities to read and write. Butler also saw

herself as being different due to her being an only child. So, she couldnt talk to those her age

like she could to adults. But she didnt let the negativity provided by her peers to get her down.

Another area that she had to deal with discrimination was by her fellow science fiction

writers. At the time, the majority of science fiction writers were middle aged white men. So,

everything about Octavia was going against the norms of the time. She dealt with criticisms from

many in her line of work.

When reading Octavia Butlers work, one can definitely find some of the experiences that

she had to face as a child. And if it werent her experiences, it was the experiences of others. She

wanted to write interesting stories, and give people who were dealing with these problems hope.

Her main goal for Kindred was to encourage empathy for people who endured terrible things.

Overall, her efforts were very successful.

Butler was given a great many awards for her work in writing. In 1984, she received a

Best Short Story Hugo Award for her story Speech Sounds. That same year, she won a Nebula

Award for her story, Bloodchild. In 1995, she was given a genius grant from the MacArthur

Foundation. She was the first science fiction writer to achieve this.

Octavia E. Butler died in her home on February 24th, 2006, at the age of 58. Her death

was because of a fall that she suffered near her house. Before her death, she suffered from

hypertension and other health problems. Her death was a great tragedy to many groups of people,

people like; African-Americans, women, and science fiction lovers. She was a very good author

that I, personally, am looking forward to reading more of her works.

Works Cited

Fox, Margalit. Octavia E. Butler, Science Fiction Writer, Dies at 58. The New York Times, The

New York Times, 1 Mar. 2006, www.nytimes.com/2006/03/01/books/octavia-e-butler-


Octavia E. Butler. Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 28 Apr. 2017,


Cox, Carolyn. 15 Fascinating Facts About Octavia Butler. The Portalist, 22 Aug. 2017,


The 1950s. History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2010, www.history.com/topics/1950s.