- Read the first 30 pages in Butler’s The Parable of the Sower. create a 100-word summary paragraph (Links to an external site.). Note the pertinent page number/s in your book at the end of each summary sentence in the style of a parenthetical MLA citation (Links to an external site.).
Parable of the Sower
The Parable Series (Book One)
Octavia E. Butler
A Biography of Octavia E. Butler
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.
EARTHSEED: THE BOOKS OF THE LIVING
by Lauren Oya Olamina
All that you touch
All that you Change
The only lasting truth
God Is Change.
EARTHSEED: THE BOOKS OF THE LIVING
Saturday, July 20, 2024
I HAD MY RECURRING dream last night. I guess I should have expected it. It
comes to me when I struggle—when I twist on my own personal hook and try
to pretend that nothing unusual is happening. It comes to me when I try to be
my father’s daughter. Today is our birthday—my fifteenth and my father’s
fifty-fifth. Tomorrow, I’ll try to please him—him and the community and
God. So last night, I dreamed a reminder that it’s all a lie. I think I need to
write about the dream because this particular lie bothers me so much.
I’m learning to fly, to levitate myself. No one is teaching me. I’m just learning
on my own, little by little, dream lesson by dream lesson. Not a very subtle
image, but a persistent one. I’ve had many lessons, and I’m better at flying
than I used to be. I trust my ability more now, but I’m still afraid. I can’t quite
control my directions yet.
I lean forward toward the doorway. It’s a doorway like the one between
my room and the hall. It seems to be a long way from me, but I lean toward it.
Holding my body stiff and tense, I let go of whatever I’m grasping, whatever
has kept me from rising or falling so far. And I lean into the air, straining
upward, not moving upward, but not quite falling down either. Then I do
begin to move, as though to slide on the air drifting a few feet above the floor,
caught between terror and joy.
I drift toward the doorway. Cool, pale light glows from it. Then I slide a
little to the right; and a little more. I can see that I’m going to miss the door
and hit the wall beside it, but I can’t stop or turn. I drift away from the door,
away from the cool glow into another light.
The wall before me is burning. Fire has sprung from nowhere, has eaten
in through the wall, has begun to reach toward me, reach for me. The fire
spreads. I drift into it. It blazes up around me. I thrash and scramble and try to
swim back out of it, grabbing handfuls of air and fire, kicking, burning!
Perhaps I awake a little. I do sometimes when the fire swallows me.
That’s bad. When I wake up all the way, I can’t get back to sleep. I try, but
I’ve never been able to.
This time I don’t wake up all the way. I fade into the second part of the
dream—the part that’s ordinary and real, the part that did happen years ago
when I was little, though at the time it didn’t seem to matter.
Stars casting their cool, pale, glinting light.
“We couldn’t see so many stars when I was little,” my stepmother says to
me. She speaks in Spanish, her own first language. She stands still and small,
looking up at the broad sweep of the Milky Way. She and I have gone out
after dark to take the washing down from the clothesline. The day has been
hot, as usual, and we both like the cool darkness of early night. There’s no
moon, but we can see very well. The sky is full of stars.
The neighborhood wall is a massive, looming presence nearby. I see it as
a crouching animal, perhaps about to spring, more threatening than protective.
But my stepmother is there, and she isn’t afraid. I stay close to her. I’m seven
I look up at the stars and the deep, black sky. “Why couldn’t you see the
stars?” I ask her. “Everyone can see them.” I speak in Spanish, too, as she’s
taught me. It’s an intimacy somehow.
“City lights,” she says. “Lights, progress, growth, all those things we’re
too hot and too poor to bother with anymore.” She pauses. “When I was your
age, my mother told me that the stars—the few stars we could see—were
windows into heaven. Windows for God to look through to keep an eye on us.
I believed her for almost a year.” My stepmother hands me an armload of my
youngest brother’s diapers. I take them, walk back toward the house where
she has left her big wicker laundry basket, and pile the diapers atop the rest of
the clothes. The basket is full. I look to see that my stepmother is not
watching me, then let myself fall backward onto the soft mound of stiff, clean
clothes. For a moment, the fall is like floating.
I lie there, looking up at the stars. I pick out some of the constellations
and name the stars that make them up. I’ve learned them from an astronomy
book that belonged to my father’s mother.
I see the sudden light streak of a meteor flashing westward across the
sky. I stare after it, hoping to see another. Then my stepmother calls me and I
go back to her.
“There are city lights now,” I say to her. “They don’t hide the stars.”
She shakes her head. “There aren’t anywhere near as many as there were.
Kids today have no idea what a blaze of light cities used to be—and not that
“I’d rather have the stars,” I say.
“The stars are free.” She shrugs. “I’d rather have the city lights back
myself, the sooner the better. But we can afford the stars.”
A gift of God
May sear unready fingers.
EARTHSEED: THE BOOKS OF THE LIVING
Sunday, July 21, 2024
AT LEAST THREE YEARS ago, my fathers God stopped being my God. His
church stopped being my church. And yet, today, because I’m a coward, I let
myself be initiated into that church. I let my father baptize me in all three
names of that God who isn’t mine any more.
My God has another name.
We got up early this morning because we had to go across town to
church. Most Sundays, Dad holds church services in our front rooms. He’s a
Baptist minister, and even though not all of the people who live within our
neighborhood walls are Baptists, those who feel the need to go to church are
glad to come to us. That way they don’t have to risk going outside where
things are so dangerous and crazy. It’s bad enough that some people—my
father for one—have to go out to work at least once a week. None of us goes
out to school any more. Adults get nervous about kids going outside.
But today was special. For today, my father made arrangements with
another minister—a friend of his who still had a real church building with a
Dad once had a church just a few blocks outside our wall. He began it
before there were so many walls. But after it had been slept in by the
homeless, robbed, and vandalized several times, someone poured gasoline in
and around it and burned it down. Seven of the homeless people sleeping
inside on that last night burned with it.
But somehow, Dad’s friend Reverend Robinson has managed to keep his
church from being destroyed. We rode our bikes to it this morning—me, two
of my brothers, four other neighborhood kids who were ready to be baptized,
plus my father and some other neighborhood adults riding shotgun. All the
adults were armed. That’s the rule. Go out in a bunch, and go armed.
The alternative was to be baptized in the bathtub at home. That would
have been cheaper and safer and fine with me. I said so, but no one paid
attention to me. To the adults, going outside to a real church was like stepping
back into the good old days when there were churches all over the place and
too many lights and gasoline was for fueling cars and trucks instead of for
torching things. They never miss a chance to relive the good old days or to
tell kids how great it’s going to be when the country gets back on its feet and
good times come back.
To us kids—most of us—the trip was just an adventure, an excuse to go
outside the wall. We would be baptized out of duty or as a kind of insurance,
but most of us aren’t that much concerned with religion. I am, but then I have
a different religion.
“Why take chances,” Silvia Dunn said to me a few days ago. “Maybe
there’s something to all this religion stuff.” Her parents thought there was, so
she was with us.
My brother Keith who was also with us didn’t share any of my beliefs.
He just didn’t care. Dad wanted him to be baptized, so what the hell. There
wasn’t much that Keith did care about. He liked to hang out with his friends
and pretend to be grown up, dodge work and dodge school and dodge church.
He’s only twelve, the oldest of my three brothers. I don’t like him much, but
he’s my stepmother’s favorite. Three smart sons and one dumb one, and it’s
the dumb one she loves best.
Keith looked around more than anyone as we rode. His ambition, if you
could call it that, is to get out of the neighborhood and go to Los Angeles.
He’s never too clear about what he’ll do there. He just wants to go to the big
city and make big money. According to my father, the big city is a carcass
covered with too many maggots. I think he’s right, though not all the maggots
are in LA. They’re here, too.
But maggots tend not to be early-morning types. We rode past people
stretched out, sleeping on the sidewalks, and a few just waking up, but they
paid no attention to us. I saw at least three people who weren’t going to wake
up again, ever. One of them was headless. I caught myself looking around for
the head. After that, I tired not to look around at all.
A woman, young, naked, and filthy stumbled along past us. I got a look
at her slack expression and realized that she was dazed or drunk or something.
Maybe she had been raped so much that she was crazy. I’d heard stories
of that happening. Or maybe she was just high on drugs. The boys in our
group almost fell off their bikes, staring at her. What wonderful religious
thoughts they would be having for a while.
The naked woman never looked at us. I glanced back after we’d passed
her and saw that she had settled down in the weeds against someone else’s
A lot of our ride was along one neighborhood wall after another; some a
block long, some two blocks, some five. … Up toward the hills there were
walled estates—one big house and a lot of shacky little dependencies where
the servants lived. We didn’t pass anything like that today. In fact we passed a
couple of neighborhoods so poor that their walls were made up of unmortared
rocks, chunks of concrete, and trash. Then there were the pitiful, unwalled
residential areas. A lot of the houses were trashed—burned, vandalized,
infested with drunks or druggies or squatted-in by homeless families with
their filthy, gaunt, half-naked children. Their kids were wide awake and
watching us this morning. I feel sorry for the little ones, but the ones my age
and older make me nervous. We ride down the middle of the cracked street,
and the kids come out and stand along the curb to stare at us. They just stand
and stare. I think if there were only one or two of us, or if they couldn’t see
our guns, they might try to pull us down and steal our bikes, our clothes, our
shoes, whatever. Then what? Rape? Murder? We could wind up like that
naked woman, stumbling along, dazed, maybe hurt, sure to attract dangerous
attention unless she could steal some clothing. I wish we could have given her
My stepmother says she and my father stopped to help an injured woman
once, and the guys who had injured her jumped out from behind a wall and
almost killed them.
And we’re in Robledo—20 miles from Los Angeles, and, according to
Dad, once a rich, green, unwalled little city that he had been eager to abandon
when he was a young man. Like Keith, he had wanted to escape the dullness
of Robledo for big city excitement. L.A. was better then—less lethal. He lived
there for 21 years. Then in 2010, his parents were murdered and he inherited
their house. Whoever killed them had robbed the house and smashed up the
furniture, but they didn’t torch anything. There was no neighborhood wall
Crazy to live without a wall to protect you. Even in Robledo, most of the
street poor—squatters, winos, junkies, homeless people in general—are
dangerous. They’re desperate or crazy or both. That’s enough to make anyone
Worse for me, they often have things wrong with them. They cut off
each other’s ears, arms, legs. … They carry untreated diseases and festering
wounds. They have no money to spend on water to wash with so even the
unwounded have sores. They don’t get enough to eat so they’re malnourished
—or they eat bad food and poison themselves. As I rode, I tried not to look
around at them, but I couldn’t help seeing—collecting—some of their general
I can take a lot of pain without falling apart. I’ve had to learn to do that.
But it was hard, today, to keep peddling and keep up with the others when just
about everyone I saw made me feel worse and worse.
My father glanced back at me every now and then. He tells me, “You can
beat this thing. You don’t have to give in to it.” He has always pretended, or
perhaps believed, that my hyperempathy syndrome was something I could
shake off and forget about. The sharing isn’t real, after all. It isn’t some magic
or ESP that allows me to share the pain or the pleasure of other people. It’s
delusional. Even I admit that. My brother Keith used to pretend to be hurt just
to trick me into sharing his supposed pain. Once he used red ink as fake blood
to make me bleed. I was eleven then, and I still bled through the skin when I
saw someone else bleeding. I couldn’t help doing it, and I always worried that
it would give me away to people outside the family.
I haven’t shared bleeding with anyone since I was twelve and got my
first period. What a relief that was. I just wish all the rest of it had gone away,
too. Keith only tricked me into bleeding that once, and I beat the hell out of
him for it. I didn’t fight much when I was little because it hurt me so. I felt
every blow that I struck, just as though I’d hit myself. So when I did decide
that I had to fight, I set out to hurt the other kid more than kids usually hurt
one another. I broke Michael Talcott’s arm and Rubin Quintanilla’s nose. I
knocked out four of Silvia Dunn’s teeth. They all earned what I did to them
two or three times over. I got punished every time, and I resented it. It was
double punishment, after all, and my father and stepmother knew it. But
knowing didn’t stop them. I think they did it to satisfy the other kids’ parents.
But when I beat up Keith, I knew that Cory or Dad or both of them would
punish me for it—my poor little brother, after all. So I had to see that my poor
little brother paid in advance. What I did to him had to be worthwhile in spite
of what they would do to me.
We both got it later from Dad—me for hurting a younger kid and Keith
for risking putting “family business” into the street. Dad is big on privacy and
“family business.” There’s a whole range of things we never even hint about
outside the family. First among these is anything about my mother, my
hyperempathy, and how the two are connected. To my father, the whole
business is shameful. He’s a preacher and a professor and a dean. A first wife
who was a drug addict and a daughter who is drug damaged is not something
he wants to boast about. Lucky for me. Being the most vulnerable person I
know is damned sure not something I want to boast about.
I can’t do a thing about my hyperempathy, no matter what Dad thinks or
wants or wishes. I feel what I see others feeling or what I believe they feel.
Hyperempathy is what the doctors call an “organic delusional syndrome.” Big
shit. It hurts, that’s all I know. Thanks to Paracetco, the small pill, the Einstein
powder, the particular drug my mother chose to abuse before my birth killed
her, I’m crazy. I get a lot of grief that doesn’t belong to me, and that isn’t real.
But it hurts.
I’m supposed to share pleasure and pain, but there isn’t much pleasure
around these days. About the only pleasure I’ve found that I enjoy sharing is
sex. I get the guy’s good feeling and my own. I almost wish I didn’t. I live in
a tiny, walled fish-bowl cul-de-sac community, and I’m the preacher’s
daughter. There’s a real limit to what I can do as far as sex goes.
Anyway, my neurotransmitters are scrambled and they’re going to stay
scrambled. But I can do okay as long as other people don’t know about me.
Inside our neighborhood walls I do fine. Our rides today, though, were hell.
Going and coming, they were all the worst things I’ve ever felt—shadows and
ghosts, twists and jabs of unexpected pain.
If I don’t look too long at old injuries, they don’t hurt me too much.
There was a naked little boy whose skin was a mass of big red sores; a man
with a huge scab over the stump where his right hand used to be; a little girl,
naked, maybe seven years old with blood running down her bare thighs. A
woman with a swollen, bloody, beaten face. …
I must have seemed jumpy. I glanced around like a bird, not letting my
gaze rest on anyone longer than it took me to see that they weren’t coming in
my direction or aiming anything at me.
Dad may have read something of what I was feeling in my expression. I
try not to let my face show anything, but he’s good at reading me. Sometimes
people say I look grim or angry. Better to have them think that than know the
truth. Better to have them think anything than let them know just how easy it
is to hurt me.
Dad had insisted on fresh, clean, potable water for the baptism. He couldn’t
afford it, of course. Who could? That was the other reason for the four extra
Silvia Dunn, Hector Quintanilla, Curtis Talcott, and Drew Baiter, along
with my brothers Keith and Marcus. The other kids’ parents had helped with
costs. They thought a proper baptism was important enough to spend some
money and take some risks. I was the oldest by about two months. Curtis was
next. As much as I hated being there, I hated even more that Curtis was there.
I care about him more than I want to. I care what he thinks of me. I worry that
I’ll fall apart in public some day and he’ll see. But not today.
By the time we reached the fortress-church, my jaw-muscles hurt from
clinching and unclinching my teeth, and overall, I was exhausted.
There were only five or six dozen people at the service—enough to fill
up our front rooms at home and look like a big crowd. At the church, though,
with its surrounding wall and its security bars and Lazor wire and its huge
hollowness inside, and it’s armed guards, the crowd seemed a tiny scattering
of people. That was all right. The last thing I wanted was a big audience to
maybe trip me up with pain.
The baptism went just as planned. They sent us kids off to the bathrooms
(“men’s,” “women’s,” “please do not put paper of any kind into toilets,”
“water for washing in bucket at left. …”) to undress and put on white gowns.
When we were ready, Curtis’s father took us to an anteroom where we could
hear the preaching—from the first chapter of Saint John and the second
chapter of The Acts—and wait our turns.
My turn came last. I assume that was my father’s idea. First the neighbor
kids, then my brothers, then me. For reasons that don’t make a lot of sense to
me, Dad thinks I need more humility. I think my particular biological humility
—or humiliation—is more than enough.
What the hell? Someone had to be last. I just wish I could have been
courageous enough to skip the thing altogether.
So, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. …”
Catholics get this stuff over with when they’re babies. I wish Baptists
did. I almost wish I could believe it was important the way a lot of people
seem to, the way my father seems to. Failing that, I wish I didn’t care.
But I do. The idea of God is much on my mind these days. I’ve been
paying attention to what other people believe—whether they believe, and if so
what kind of God they believe in. Keith says God is just the adults’ way of
trying to scare you into doing what they want. He doesn’t say that around
Dad, but he says it. He believes in what he sees, and no matter what’s in front
of him, he doesn’t see much. I suppose Dad would say that about me if he
knew what I believe. Maybe he’d be right. But it wouldn’t stop me from
seeing what I see.
A lot of people seem to believe in a big-daddy-God or a big-cop-God or
a big-king-God. They believe in a kind of super-person. A few believe God is
another word for nature. And nature turns out to mean just about anything
they happen not to understand or feel in control of.
Some say God is a spirit, a force, an ultimate reality. Ask seven people
what all of that means and you’ll get seven different answers. So what is
God? Just another name for whatever makes you feel special and protected?
There’s a big, early-season storm blowing itself out in the Gulf of
Mexico. It’s bounced around the Gulf, killing people from Florida to Texas
and down into Mexico. There are over 700 known dead so far. One hurricane.
And how many people has it hurt? How many are going to starve later
because of destroyed crops? That’s nature. Is it God? Most of the dead are the
street poor who have nowhere to go and who don’t hear the warnings until it’s
too late for their feet to take them to safety. Where’s safety for them anyway?
Is it a sin against God to be poor? We’re almost poor ourselves. There are
fewer and fewer jobs among us, more of us being born, more kids growing up
with nothing to look forward to. One way or another, we’ll all be poor some
day. The adults say things will get better, but they never have. How will God
—my father’s God—behave toward us when we’re poor?
Is there a God? If there is, does he (she? it?) care about us? Deists like
Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson believed God was something that
made us, then left us on our own.
“Misguided,” Dad said when I asked him about Deists. “They should
have had more faith in what their Bibles told them.”
I wonder if the people on the Gulf Coast still have faith. People have had
faith through horrible disasters before. I read a lot about that kind of thing. I
read a lot period. My favorite book of the Bible is Job. I think it says more
about my father’s God in particular and gods in general than anything else
I’ve ever read.
In the book of Job, God says he made everything and he knows
everything so no one has any right to question what he does with any of it.
Okay. That works. That Old Testament God doesn’t violate the way things are
now. But that God sounds a lot like Zeus—a super-powerful man, playing
with his toys the way my youngest brothers play with toy soldiers. Bang,
bang! Seven toys fall dead. If they’re yours, you make the rules. Who cares
what the toys think. Wipe out a toy’s family, then give it a brand new family.
Toy children, like Job’s children, are interchangeable.
Maybe God is a kind of big kid, playing with his toys. If he is, what
difference does it make if 700 people get killed in a hurricane—or if seven
kids go to church and get dipped in a big tank of expensive water?
But what if all that is wrong? What if God is something else altogether?
We do not worship God.
We perceive and attend God.
We learn from God.
With forethought and work,
We shape God.
In the end, we yield to God.
We adapt and endure,
For we are Earthseed
And God is Change.
EARTHSEED: THE BOOKS OF THE LIVING
Tuesday, July 30, 2024
ONE OF THE ASTRONAUTS on the latest Mars mission has been killed.
Something went wrong with her protective suit and the rest of her team
couldn’t get her back to the shelter in time to save her. People here in the
neighborhood are saying she had no business going to Mars, anyway. All that
money wasted on another crazy space trip when so many people here on earth
can’t afford water, food, or shelter.
The cost of water has gone up again. And I heard on the news today that more
water peddlers are being killed. Peddlers sell water to squatters and the street
poor—and to people who’ve managed to hold on to their homes, but not to
pay their utility bills. Peddlers are being found with their throats cut and their
money and their handtrucks stolen. Dad says water now costs several times as
much as gasoline. But, except for arsonists and the rich, most people have
given up buying gasoline. No one I know uses a gas-powered car, truck, or
cycle. Vehicles like that are rusting in driveways and being cannibalized for
metal and plastic.
It’s a lot harder to give up water.
Fashion helps. You’re supposed to be dirty now. If you’re clean, you
make a target of yourself. People think you’re showing off, trying to be better
than they are. Among the younger kids, being clean is a great way to start a
fight. Cory won’t let us stay dirty here in the neighborhood, but we all have
filthy clothes to wear outside the walls. Even inside, my brothers throw dirt
on themselves as soon as they get away from the house. It’s better than getting
beaten up all the time.
Tonight the last big Window Wall television in the neighborhood went dark
for good. We saw the dead astronaut with all of red, rocky Mars around her.
We saw a dust-dry reservoir and three dead water peddlers with their dirty-
blue armbands and their heads cut halfway off. And we saw whole blocks of
boarded up buildings burning in Los Angeles. Of course, no one would waste
water trying to put such fires out.
Then the Window went dark. The sound had flickered up and down for
months, but the picture was always as promised—like looking through a vast,
The Yannis family has made a business of having people in to look
through their Window. Dad says that kind of unlicensed business isn’t legal,
but he let us go to watch sometimes because he didn’t see any harm in it, and
it helped the Yannises. A lot of small businesses are illegal, even though they
don’t hurt anyone, and they keep a household or two alive. The Yannis
Window is about as old as I am. It covers the long west wall of their living
room. They must have had plenty of money back when they bought it. For the
past couple of years, though, they’ve been charging admission—only letting
in people from the neighborhood—and selling fruit, fruit juice, acorn bread,
or walnuts. Whatever they had too much of in their garden, they found a way
to sell. They showed movies from their library and let us watch news and
whatever else was broadcast. They couldn’t afford to subscribe to any of the
new multisensory stuff, and their old Window couldn’t have received most of
They have no reality vests, no touch-rings, and no headsets. Their setup
was just a plain, thin-screened Window.
All we have left now are three small, ancient, murky little TV sets
scattered around the neighborhood, a couple of computers used for work, and
radios. Every household still has at least one working radio. A lot of our
everyday news is from radio.
I wonder what Mrs. Yannis will do now. Her two sisters have moved in
with her, and they’re working so maybe it will be all right. One is a
pharmacist and the other is a nurse. They don’t earn much, but Mrs. Yannis
owns the house free and clear. It was her parents’ house.
All three sisters are widows and between them they have twelve kids, all
younger than I am. Two years ago, Mr. Yannis, a dentist, was killed while
riding his electric cycle home from the walled, guarded clinic where he
worked. Mrs. …