Book: Parable of the Sower
March 22, 2017 10:47 AM - by Octavia E. Butler - Subscribe

When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe. In a night of fire and death Lauren Olamina, a minister's young daughter, loses her family and home and ventures out into the unprotected American landscape. But what begins as a flight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny... and the birth of a new faith.

Goodreads page.

Even more than 1984, media outlets are discussing Parable of the Sower as the real blueprint of Trump's America. The sequel Parable of the Talents even predicts 45's slogan of "Make America Great Again".

This FanFare post is part of the "In These Trying Times" book club, which reads fiction relevant to the rise of Donald Trump and his presidency. Our last book was The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood. Our next book is It Can't Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis.
posted by chainsofreedom (13 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Thanks for posting this! I have been planning to read this but I think this got me on it.

I was impressed with the high readability level of this book. It was definitely a page turner for me even though in some sense it's sort of... procedural? Like, "Today we walked five miles, ate some almonds, and got assaulted by maniacs, again. Went to bed." I guess Butler really succcesfully creates this journal feeling that is believable. I could imagine that there might have been some parallels to Butler's own childhood experience as I would guess a bit of a loner, outsider with a strong vision.

One detail that I pedantically found distracting: no one would be able to afford almonds in this drought-ridden, highly class-stratified future.

On a more important level, I don't agree with the worldview that people become monsterous in crisis. I think the evidence says people look out for each other when things fall apart, but maybe I don't know enough about places with complete government breakdown coupled with corruption and war.

Really good book, in many ways very prescient.
posted by latkes at 12:25 PM on March 22, 2017


I think the evidence says people look out for each other when things fall apart, but maybe I don't know enough about places with complete government breakdown coupled with corruption and war.

The book also says this. It's full of communities of people looking out for each other. Lauren grows up in what is essentially a walled community with shared defence (if an oblivious and naieve one). Lauren builds communities whereever she goes, including on the road. Her brother is taken in by a street community and becomes their lay preacher.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:24 PM on March 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


I think I started this after becoming quite entranced at Ms Butlers take on alien invasion, perhaps the first ever that made a lick of actual sense in terms of alien motivation, actual physical science and well alieness; but not sure if I finished or just didn't register. The somewhat mall'ish post apocalyptic on the road did not grab me, (being in the mood for hardish SF) but I do have all her books on my list.

Although I don't think I lived in Seattle at the same time as she did, geographic overlaps give a certain depth (I knew most of the locations in Cowgirl gets the blues), she is one author I'd have enjoyed meeting.
posted by sammyo at 4:32 PM on March 22, 2017


This book blew my mind at the time. The conviction that girl had that she had a calling and was going to follow it despite it all, wow.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:54 AM on March 23, 2017


Neat - I just started re-reading this

I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but I find myself identifying with the teenage protagonist much more at 42 than I did when I originally read it in my early 20s. I'm not sure if I've changed or the world has or both.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:18 AM on March 23, 2017


My issue was the idea that there are these crazed drug addicts who want to literally burn everything down. Seems in line with present-day stereotypes about PCP or "bath salts" making people into crazed monsters that consistently turn out to be false. Likewise there's just general marauding all the time - I mean, her brother was brutally murdered by this gang that took him in right?

But I like your read of it better than mine, His thoughts were red thoughts. I guess the book shows both ways humans act: evil and generous. Both are true about human nature, but you can read Parable with an eye toward the way it talks about rebuilding and connecting.

Knowing that Butler was such a deep introvert, it does make me wonder if some of the book is a sort of agoraphobia talking, but on the other hand, staying locked into their little community ends up being stifling and then impossible so... not sure..
posted by latkes at 3:43 PM on March 23, 2017


Likewise there's just general marauding all the time - I mean, her brother was brutally murdered by this gang that took him in right?

What? No. IIRC, he was taken in, became a child lay preacher, that group was taken out, he was sold as a slave, Lauren buys him back, then he goes off (in Talents) and comes a high ranking priest and ensures Lauren's daughter is taken care of.

But, yes, there is marauding all the time in the book, particularly on the road. Even when they build their short-lived utopia, it's a walled one.

I don't that's particularly bizzare or pesimistic. Walled and gated communities exist right now, in the present day US. Muggings and violent theft, assults and murder happen now too. In an environment when the basic necessecities are scarce and there are no formalised support services, people will do terrible things to survive. Consider, for example, the favelas in Rio de Janeiro, which are essentially ruled by drug gangs, or the emergence of Somali piracy. People build communities to support each other, but those communities aren't necessarily benevolent to those outside of them.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:32 PM on March 23, 2017


Oh I haven't read Talents.
posted by latkes at 5:58 PM on March 23, 2017


Ack! Sorry for being spoileriffic.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:02 PM on March 23, 2017


Knowing that Butler was such a deep introvert, it does make me wonder if some of the book is a sort of agoraphobia talking, but on the other hand, staying locked into their little community ends up being stifling and then impossible so... not sure..

Communities are a big focus in all her books. The Exogenesis series (the alien invasion one) is littered with communities - villages of aliens, villages of humans, tribes of aliens on the mothership. Fledgling is about villages of vampires, and how a global community manages despite being so dispersed and isolated at the granular level. Even the Patternmaster series is about communities in secret and, later, about new species and new communities.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:06 PM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


The Exogenesis series

I am the stupid. It is Xenogenesis, not Exogenesis.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:24 PM on March 23, 2017


I have not read this recently, but remember it seeming very strong.

Mostly wanted to say that there's an operatic adaption of this book now.
http://www.toshireagon.com/parable-of-the-sower/ Just finished a run in Boston.
posted by joeyh at 6:20 AM on March 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


Oh wow, I super want to see that.
posted by asperity at 9:34 AM on March 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


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