Study Guide

Dawn by Octavia Butler (1987) in Feminist Theory

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Dawn by Octavia Butler (1987)

Sci-fi! Galaxies far, far away; space battles and giant bug creatures; people with ears of every shape you can picture; and infinite universes to explore! What's not to love?

Oh right, the threats to humanity, scary visions of the future, and the fact that the bulk of sci-fi books are written by dudes who don't really care whether the female characters get a voice or not.

Cue Octavia Butler, whose novel Dawn is the first book in a trilogy about the near-extinction of the human species. Uplifting, right? Dawn begins with the story of Lilith Iyapo, an African-American woman who's part of a small population of humans who survive after a group of radicals tries to commit genocide against the entire human species. Yikes!

The only reason they make it through is because an alien race called the Oankali step in to help, and that's who's got Lilith when the novel begins. But as payment for saving the humans, the Oankali want something in return...

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