"If there is one thing scarier than a dystopian novel about the future, it's one written in the past that has already begun to come true." -- Gloria Steinem, Parable of the Sower Introduction
July 20th and 21st, 2024 mark the beginning of Lauren Olamina's "Earthseed" journal in Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower. The entry is on her 15th birthday and is about a recurring dream she has that is sparked by the reminder that the safety of her community is a lie. In a dehumanized world of scavengers and drugged up people who take pleasure from burning, raping, and murdering, Lauren knows that the walled community she lives in won't keep anyone safe for much longer. She knows there will be a day when the walls will come down and the families of the eleven-household cul-de-sac will be forced to flee into the unknown or die trying.
Lauren and her father are not the only ones who know what is to come, but they're the only ones who can admit it. Even as the unfolding events make it clearer and clearer that the community needs to prepare for the worst, Lauren is the only one who refuses to live in denial. It's hard to ignore the truth when one suffers from hyperempathy, like Lauren does, and the disorder only makes things that much more difficult for her. How can you protect yourself when you can feel every blow you inflict on the person you're protecting yourself from?
We are seven years away from Lauren's 15th birthday (she turned eight today) and the future Octavia Butler predicted. I say "predicted" because, as Steinem points out in her introduction, it's already begun. We can live as bystanders, like Lauren's community, and simply wait and hope for things to get better. Or we can be active and fight hard for a better future so that we don't end up in one where all we can do is survive.
"Prodigy is, at its essence, adaptability and persistent, positive obsession. Without persistence, what remains is an enthusiasm of the moment. Without adaptability, what remains may be channeled into destructive fanaticism. Without positive obsession, there is nothing at all." -- Lauren Oya Olamina
We invite you to read the first three chapters of Parable of the Sower from the newest edition, released February 2017.
Happy Birthday Lauren.