I’ve written about this before reading this book, especially for the role that Evangelical Christianity played in the election of that former guy (the ex 45th President). There is a very strong converting the heathen masses tendency in this religious persuasion. The parallels in Octavia Butler’s prescient novel are deeply unsettling. Modern day “Crusaders” become cruel vigilantes in Christian America. They take the children of those they deem in need of re-education and place them for adoption into good Christian American homes.
The protagonist of her novel, Lauren Oya Olamina, has her infant daughter taken from her. The home that Larkin is placed in is not a happy one, echoing what so many adoptees say about their own experiences. The adoptive mother is cold and not nurturing. The adoptive father has wandering hands over the young girl’s body. Her birth mother searches for many, many years to uncover what became of her daughter. A huge upset occurs when she discovers her brother Marc knew where Larkin was all along and that as a whole-hearted believer and even minister for Christian American churches, he lies to the child (even though her mother had asked for his assistance in locating her daughter) and tells her that her mother died.
I found this WordPress review by LINK>Alive and Narrating. Like the blogger, ” I feel incredibly fortunate that I chose to read Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents to “officially” delve into Octavia Butler’s oeuvre.” I am almost finished with “the Talents” and have read “the Sower”.
The reviewer writes accurately that “Parable of the Talents is also the story of Lauren’s daughter, Larkin, renamed Ashe Vere after she was snatched from Acorn and her parents, the first in a series of crimes committed in a prolonged ordeal of violence, degradation, and suffering enacted by religious militants, members of The Church of Christian America.”
Her review continues – The United States, tired of the apocalyptic chaos the country has experienced during the past decade, has voted into power the fanatical and fascistic president (*)Donald Trump Ted Cruz Andrew Steele Jarret. (At one point he actually says as part of his campaigning that he will “make America great again. *SHUDDER*). Jarret is the founder of the powerful, right-wing Church of Christian America. He preaches a return to godliness, in the form of persecuting, prosecuting, and “saving” any American who refuses to lead a good Christian life. And that includes stamping out all “cults” who go against the bible’s teachings and allow women to speak and hold positions unacceptable for their gender. (*) blogger’s note – I would add Gov Ron DeSantis to this worrying mix of bad characters.
An armed group of Christian America militants invade and destroy Acorn, turn the place into a “re-education” camp, and enslave all the adults with electric collars they use to administer excruciating punishment. All the children are stolen and sent for “re-education” elsewhere to be fostered and adopted by Christian American families. Larkin Olamina—renamed Ashe Vere Alexander—grows up in one of these Christian American homes, unloved and abused by her adoptive parents, never knowing who her biological parents are. Only as an adult does she learn that her mother is none other than Lauren Olamina, founder and leader of the now-powerful and widespread religion Earthseed.
Parable of the Talents is a harrowing and frightening yet soberingly realistic story of a future United States where the separation between Church and State no longer exists, where in the absence of law enforcement on behalf of the government or even the police, the Church of Christian America steps into the void and enforces its own violent set of edicts. It’s the story of religion as a social force, used in order to uplift or to subjugate, and the ways in which it unites people out of fear and desperation, and also out of the need to believe in something more than just this universe, or simply to be more than who or what we already are.
It’s also an intimate, personal story of a mother and daughter, each of whom spend their lives needing each other and not getting the person they wanted. The true story of many adoptees and their original biological/genetic mothers who lost them to adoption, often with the coercion of their religious leaders. It’s a story of guilt, regret, bitterness, and deep, heartache pain of not having each other. Humanity needed Lauren’s Earthseed philosophy, needed to embrace change, needed something to reach for and aspire to. In adopting Ashe as his own, rather than give her back to Lauren, Marc imposes his own power over what he thinks the world should like and what his own family should look like, all from his position of power as a minister of the Church of Christian America.
The entire thing is a hopelessly and painfully knotted set of familial relationships as seen through the lenses of religion, power, morality, and destiny. These books are about people, and the humanity of people, which includes both the admirable and the detestable and all the variations in-between. Like the blogger, I feel lucky and blessed to have read these books, to have read them now, and that they exist in the universe for people to read and be inspired by.
What is also amazing to me is that Octavia Butler wrote this “current” story in 1998, which goes forward for over a decade or more beyond our current time. Octavia Butler identified in a 1999 interview the line between duty and selfishness, between caring for and saving the world and caring for and saving one’s own family. It is not a clear dividing line for most of us.