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A voice for students at Brownell Talbot School

Verbatim

Verbatim

Faceless Figure

A biography about science fiction author Octavia Butler
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Nikolas Coukouma
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“All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you” states award winning science fiction author Octavia Butler. Many people know classic authors like J.K Rowling, but fewer have heard of Octavia Butler. It turns out that her life is a truly empowering story. She was born in Pasadena California on June 22, 1947. She grew up in a strict Baptist household; she and her mother (also named Octavia) found perseverance through religion after her husband and father died. All her life she was immensely bullied and her six foot growth spurt did not help. Kids would pick on Octavia’s height and call her slurs, this caused her to be deeply suicidal throughout her adolescence. Butler’s teachers weren’t a help either, they would report that she had poor concentration and no dedication to her education. In future interviews, Butler says she struggled with dyslexia which made her schoolwork very challenging.

Butler found tranquility in the public library where she would read science fiction for hours on end. These books helped her “escape” from the acerbic filled life she had. Once Octavia realized she could make a career out of writing science fiction novels, by age ten she was creating magical stories that helped flourish her identity. But, she didn’t suddenly start opening up to the world, she still kept most of her stories hidden. One time, she did tell her aunt, who was a perfect role model for Octavia because she had been the first person to go to college in her family, that she wanted to be a writer. Butler’s aunt told her that there was no chance of her being an author and should be a teacher or a servant instead. From someone who was so inspiring to Octavia to say that must have been heartbreaking, but Octavia Butler didn’t back down.

She kept chasing her dreams and graduated from John Muir High School in 1965, then went on to attend Pasadena City College at night and worked all day. This rigorous schedule was challenging, yet she still persevered. Octavia got her degree from PCC in history then continued on to California State University and the University of California at Los Angeles. She took many classes about writing and humanities to inform her about being a better author. After college, the grind didn’t stop. Butler would wake up at two in the morning to write, then work at various jobs such as a telemarketer, warehouse clerk, and dishwasher. As she published more and more short stories, none of them gained popularity until in 1984 her creation “Speech Sounds” won the Hugo Award. This had never been seen before for a black woman to win this award. Then, only a year later, Octavia Butler won another Hugo Award, science Fiction Chronicle Reader Award for Best Novelette, and the Locus Award all for her story “Bloodchild.”

All of her books deeply connected to her audience because they challenged racism, expectations for women, political disparity, and other normalized offenses. Her run didn’t stop, Butler never got married and only focused on her career. All of her work paid off and awards kept coming. Not only was she the first black woman to win the MacArthur “Genius” Grant, she was also the first ever science fiction author to win it. Octavia Butler lived in Pasadena most of her life but traveled to Seattle and after amplifying her career she decided to move to a small suburban area called Lake Forest Park in Washington. Butler did this because after all the fame, she wanted a quiet place with a good library and stores within walking distance to get comfortable in. She spent the last seven years of her life in Washington and then unexpectedly had a stroke on February 24th, 2006, at age 58. Octavia Butler broke the limits she was born into and spoke to marginalized groups through science fiction novels. Next time you want to pick up a good book, consider an Octavia Butler novel.

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About the Contributor
Meelah Haase
Meelah Haase, Staff Writer
Meelah Haase is a freshman at Brownell Talbot College Preparatory School. It is her first year at Brownell Talbot. Meelah is excited to join Verbatim. Outside of academics, she is involved in volleyball and soccer. Meelah loves walking her two dogs, and being around family and friends. 

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