Upclose & Personal with Octavia Butler’s Journal

From The Blog of the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens:


Working draft of Octavia E. Butler’s novel Kindred (formerly titled To Keep thee in All Thy Ways) with handwritten notes by Butler, ca. 1977. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Butler created a body of work that helped launch a new genre called Afro-Futurism, which has become the focus of a remarkable amount of scholarly activity of late.

After her death, The Huntington became the recipient of her papers, which arrived in 2008 in two four-drawer file cabinets and about 35 large cartons. Butler’s papers required intense processing over the next three years. “She kept nearly everything, from her very first short stories, written at the age of 12, to book contracts and programs from speaking engagements,” says Natalie Russell, assistant curator of literary manuscripts at The Huntington.

The phenomenal body of materials includes 8,000 individually cataloged items and more than 80 boxes of additional items: extensive drafts, notes, and research materials for more than a dozen novels, numerous short stories, and essays, as well as correspondence, ephemera, and commonplace books. By the time Russell had finished the monumental task of processing the collection, an unprecedented 40 scholars were lined up to take a look. Today, it’s one of the most actively used archives at the Library. “Since May 2014, the archive has been used nearly 1,300 times—or roughly 15 times per week, on average,” says Russell.

View Online Archive: Octavia Butler


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