Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

This summer, new students at Goucher College will read Octavia Butler's novel, Parable of the Sower. The book is Goucher's 2016 summer reading assignment for first-year and transfer students.

In a future corporate America with barely a semblance of government, a walled community in Southern California struggles to keep itself together amidst the desperate homeless and a drug that turns its users into pyromaniacs. When Lauren Olamina’s father, a minister, disappears and outsiders break in to set fire to the houses, killing almost everyone, the resourceful and independent teenager sets off on her own. Picking up stragglers along the way, she and the group head north in search of a better life and a safe home.

Lauren also has a condition she tries to keep secret for her own safety—“hyperempathy,” or the ability to feel the physical pain of others around her. Her ability and experiences influence her as she starts to develop a new religion-philosophy, called Earthseed. Her fundamental belief is that God is change, and that humans must embrace adaptability and diversity to survive.

The first in a two-part science fiction series alternately told through Lauren’s journal entries and her book of Earthseed, The Parable of the Sower has been described both as an activist and a postmodern novel. With a black female protagonist, the book explores themes of race, gender, religion, global warming, and transcending earthly limitations. Nominated for a Nebula Award for best novel, the book was published in 1993 and is just as relevant—if not more so—today.

Selected based on suggestions from the campus community, The Parable of the Sower will spark discussion among new students, staff, and faculty during Goucher's fall orientation session, will serve as an introduction to the Spring 2017 theme semester on "The Power of Storytelling." This summer, incoming students will receive a copy of the book and study guide questions to foster group conversation during fall orientation. On Monday, October 24 Adrienne Maree Brown will speak at Goucher. Brown is the co-editor of an anthology, Octavia’s Brood, and an independent science fiction scholar.

Octavia Butler, who died in 2006, was a celebrated and critically acclaimed author of many books, including The Sower’s sequel, The Parable of the Talents, as well as Kindred, Fledgling, the Xenogenesis series, and the Patternist series. Butler and her work garnered many honors, including several Hugo and Nebula Awards, a MacArthur Fellowship, and a Lifetime Achievement Award in Writing from the PEN American Center.