Black Feminist Futures x Black Feminist Book Club
Join the DC Public Library and the National Women’s History Museum in reading Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, part of Black Feminist Book Club.
Published in 1993 and beginning in a near-apocalyptic California in 2024, Butler’s renowned book has been lauded as some of the best science fiction of the last 100 years — and has also been banned for depictions of resistance to hierarchies, racism, and gender norms. For this special edition of Black Feminist Book Club, we will be reading Butler’s now-canonical text and visiting exhibitions nearby that feature artists, thinkers, and objects inspired by, and aligned with, Butler’s vision for alternate futures.
Note: registrants may join for all, or part, of the program.
5:00pm: Pre-Book Club Visit: Musical Thinking at the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Location: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 8th and G Street NW, 3rd Floor Galleries
As a warm-up, the group will start with a special tour of the exhibition Musical Thinking: New Video Art and Sonic Strategies at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in the 3rd floor galleries. Curator Saisha Grayson will lead a tour of the exhibition, which explores the powerful resonances between recent video art and popular music. We will take a close look at artworks by Cauleen Smith, who draws upon on music, poetry, Afrofuturism, science fiction, and tactics of experimental film to conjure what the artist has called “a cornucopia of future histories.” The group will continue to the MLK Library for our Book Club discussion at 6 pm.
6:00pm: Book Club Discussion
Location: MLK Library, First Floor West (Digital Commons)
The group will then move across the street to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library to continue the discussion of Parable of the Sower. We will then convene inside the exhibition We Who Believe in Freedom: Black Feminist DC , where leading Black feminist scholars and educators, like Dr. Moya Bailey, are featured imagining Black feminist futures.
Before Black Feminist Book Club, explore these connections:
- Join artist Cauleen Smith on Sept 13 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, as she delivers the annual Clarice Smith Lecture An artist who describes her work as a reflection on “the everyday possibilities of the imagination,” Smith draws on poetry, Afrofuturism, science fiction, and tactics of experimental film to conjure alternative narratives. Smith’s BLK FMNNST Loaner Library 1989–2019 features a painted version of Butler’s Parable of the Sower cover, seen above.
- Check out the podcast Octavia’s Parables with Toshi Reagon and adrienne maree brown as they examine Butler’s works one chapter at a time. Toshi Reagon is the co-creator of the Parable of the Sower Opera with her mother Bernice Johnson Reagon, who is also featured in Black Feminist DC.
- Octavia Butler’s work has been banned in many states. You can learn more about banned books, and celebrate Banned Books Week with DC Public Library, October 1-7, 2023.