Book Discussion: Octavia Butler’s Dawn

Dawn is the first novel Straylight is discussing on The Pub. Our exploration of the book will air on Monday, July 31 at 11 a.m. on WIPZ 101.5 FM.

Dawn is the first book in Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis series.

Here is a brief bio from her Wikipedia profile:

Octavia Estelle Butler (June 22, 1947 – February 24, 2006) was an American science fiction writer. A multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, in 1995 she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship, nicknamed the “Genius Grant”.

Discussion Questions:
1. What is your initial impression of the book? Does anything in particular stand out?
2. How does this novel compare to other science fiction novels?
3. Which of the characters stand out to you and why?
4. Are there an passages that you found striking? In what way?
5. The longer Lilith lives amongst the Oankali, the more they genetically modify her. The Oankali claim they are enhancing the abilities she already has—making her more human. However, the other humans Lilith Awakens perceive her as less human. How do the humans and the Oankali define humanity differently? Is there a correct and concrete definition of human?
6. At the end of the novel, Lilith objects to her pregnancy, but Nikanj argues, “Nothing about you but your words reject this child” (Butler 246). What role does language play in the novel in relation to perception? Do the Oankali use language differently than the humans?
7. Joseph questions Lilith about the Oankali’s plan for her. He asks, “Do you understand why they chose you—someone who desperately doesn’t want the responsibility, who doesn’t want to lead, who is a woman” (157).What is Joseph implying about gender stereotypes? How is Lilith used as a symbol of femininity throughout the novel?
8. The Oankali insist that Lilith is given a choice in all of her interactions with the alien creatures. Is this true? In what instances are the other human characters given a choice throughout the book?
9. What do you think of the ending of the novel? Would you read the rest of the Xenogenesis series?