[REVIEW] Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, original text by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings

A Black woman's hand holds a tablet displaying the orange cover of Parable of the Sower in front of a speeding train window, passing by a grassy field. The book cover depicts a Black teenaged girl with long dreadlocks, half her face hidden, standing in front of stylized flames and mountains.

(Buy it on Bookshop here.)

I just moved back to America, and man, it is weird.

Watching the news from America in preparation for my return sometimes felt like watching a large angry monster run towards a cliff with someone you love strapped to their back, screaming. I haven’t lived in my country for 15 years. I was scared of returning to it. But I missed it and the people it (poorly) shelters, so I’ve been back for 20 days, and so far it’s okay.

I remember reading Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower for the first time in my early 20s and feeling horrified but also strangely vindicated. The people within–families of different races, religions, and household structures working with the knowledge that their internal tensions were nothing compared to the chaos and hatred outside–were dystopic projections of communities I knew. The negligence-enabled oppression under a profiteering government was also something I saw and struggled with, eventually leading to my departure from the US back in 2006. (I’m not saying Butler made me leave America–I’m just saying she was one of several confirmations that it wasn’t a bad idea.) Parable of the Sower begins in 2024, and I’m worried that it’s grimly prophetic. Climate change, corporate abuses, police corruption, and so many other issues from 2021’s headlines have all taken their toll. People who would be seen as upwardly mobile middle-class in earlier times live in gated communities, hiding their fragile prosperity from the world outside. But walls have gates and fires can burn away a lifetime in a second. 18-year old Olamina survives the total destruction of her small world and ventures out into chaos, gathering friends and allies under the idea that God is change–but building strong communities can shape God.

My brief description and commentary on this novel does it no justice, and the graphic adaptation adds nothing new unless you love the art (I don’t.) The only reason I’d read this over the original is because it’s a little less disturbing– it simply shows us the horrible things Butler left to our imaginations. But do read this, in some form, please.

5 stars to Parable of the Sower, 4 stars to this adaptation.

(Beautiful people, the only way that things truly change for the better is through communities working hard to make it so. If you want some books about how to do that, I made a list here. If you want to support this blog–and even if you don’t–please be aware that Equal Opportunity Reader has affiliate relationships with sites like Bookshop, and any clicks/purchases made from here will result in a commission being paid. I use it to buy more books and give change to this one homeless dude I know. Peace!)


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