Mind of My Mind [Octavia Butler Book Club]

Mind of My Mind

[Doro] glanced at Rina in annoyance. Rina shrank back against the wall.

“What’s the matter with you?” he asked. “Do you think you’re safer over there?”

“Don’t hurt me,” she said. “Please.”

“Why would you beat a three-year-old like that, Rina?”

“I didn’t do it! I swear. It was a guy who brought me home a couple of nights ago. Mary woke up screaming from a nightmare or something, and he-”

“Hell,” said Doro in disgust. “Is that supposed to be an excuse?”

Rina began to cry silently, tears streaming down her face. “You don’t know,” she said in a low voice. “You don’t understand what it’s like for me having that kid here.” She was no longer slurring her words, in spite of her tears. Her fear had sobered her. She wiped her eyes. “I really didn’t hit her. You know I wouldn’t dare lie to you.” She stared at Doro a moment, then shook her head. “I’ve wanted to hit her though –so many time. I can hardly even stand to go near her sober anymore…” She looked at the body cooling on the floor and began to tremble.

This month’s selection is Mind of My Mind, the second in the Patternist series.

Some free floating framing questions:

1. How does Butler depict the post-slavery world?
2. Are our minds inherently fragile or resilient?
3. How are people shaped by violence?
4. Approaching this book, after reading Wild Seed, what do you think about Doro’s humanity or inhumanity?

Happy reading.

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  • Bert Hopkins

    I am completely entranced by this series and am once again amazed at the complexity and quality of her writing.  One of the key things I am noticing is the way in which she recharacterizes the nature of both supremacy and violence in Mind of My Mind.  In Wild Seed, the parallels between Doro and slavers and the brutal violence of both are stark and evident and I intuitively rebelled at Butler’s narrative attempt to humanize him even in his brutality.  This time, she brings us in and makes us want to feel for Mary and the Patternists, but makes it clear through Anyanwu’s comments about who the “mutes” are in relation to them and the scene with Page’s accusation of their being slaves and Ada’s confirmation as such, that the supremacy may be less brutal on the surface but is still violent to its core.  After seeeing “The Help” this weekend, I am particularly struck by how the “interference” makes them unable to raise their own children and who they turn to for that.  Doro always reminds Mary of her need for power and the violence of her past that’s tied to that and we see that all the way to the final showdown.  As a white man, I am amazed at Butler’s capacity to both sympathize with the the feeling of being trapped by the privileges and powers of institutionalized supremacy and still be uncompromising in portraying how it twists individual and collective identities.  All these characters have visions of what will make them healthy and whole, and in seeking it lose themselves as they rationalize it into being right or the lesser of evils.  In the end success always seems to be at the expense of some other other person or group.

  • Anonymous

    I enjoyed reading this one a lot. The plot, watching the Pattern emerge, was a lot more compelling to me than the relationship at the center of Wild Seed. Doro was less horrible here, but actually I missed Emma/Anyanwu a lot and wished she had more of a role here.

    The relationship between the Patternists and their people was the thing that made me uncomfortable, here. By which I mean it made me think, a lot, about the different levels of existence and different forms of enslavement. I suppose it also shows that whether a person is free or not depends on perspective; it’s possible to believe that you are free within a constrained system, without ever seeing the constraints.