Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Making Do with What You Don’t Have

Disabled Black Motherhood in Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2018), 12, (4), 441–457.

Abstract

The article analyzes themes of black motherhood through the lens of disability in Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998). It positions the series’ protagonist, Lauren Olamina, as a maternal figure with a disability, and argues that her experiences reveal how ableism is used to devalue motherhood in the text. The article connects with larger discourse on controlling images about black mothers such as the “crack mother,” a contemporary image with roots in US slavery. It then argues that because of her complex embodiment, Lauren emerges as a strong, black mother figure who births a religion, Earthseed, and carves a space, Acorn, that resists this dominant narrative. Reading Lauren’s character in this manner allows scholars to see the connection between, and address issues concerning, the stereotypes of the strong black woman and the supercrip. The article ends by saying that Butler’s text suggests a way to grapple with the thorny relationship between black studies theory and disability theory.

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Hinton, Anna