Embracing difference: Xenogenesis, me, and my son


It has always been incredibly common for me to be surrounded by a pile of books. It is even more common now that I am working on my thesis.

The other day, my 3 1/2 year old son walked up to me while I was taking notes, stared intently at the book on top, and asked,

“Will she walk out of the book? Will the alien walk out of the book?”

The book he was looking at was Xenogenesis (also known as Lilith’s Brood), and the characters he referred to are Lilith and one of the Oankali, perhaps Jdhaya or Nikanj. Lilith looks somewhat concerned, and the Oankali has placed a hand on her shoulder.

My son proceeded to tell me that Lilith is his friend, the alien is his friend, and, “someday, I will be the alien’s kid.”

Given that the premise of the book is a future in which posthumanism or transhumanism (I would argue it is transhumanism) is nearly inevitable, I was astounded. I still am.

I vaguely recall discussing Xenogenesis with my son only once before. I believe I told him that the characters featured on the cover are friends.

Perhaps he retained that information in forming his conclusions about a possible relationship between himself and the characters, but I am still heartened by his apparent sense of a connection to a book I love so dearly.

When I was 13, Xenogenesis was simultaneously an escape from the world, and a promise of something more. Since then, it has become a research interest, and led me to a community of people who enjoy Butler’s work as much as I do. Finally, reading Xenogenesis and Butler’s other work has led me to think about difference in ways I probably would not have otherwise.

I like the idea that my son could embrace difference in such a way, imagining himself in – or after – the story. The experience also made me wonder about the images with which we surround ourselves. What do they teach us? What do they teach our children?

I don’t know. I am interested in finding out, though.


Why I’m (a little bit) glad I was laid off

Nobody wants to talk about getting laid off. At least, I don’t think so. It feels personal.

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But it feels personal.

I put a lot of energy into my last tutoring job. I felt a connection with many of the students there. I wanted to give back to a community that had once helped me, personally, academically, and professionally.

At one point, I had been told that a teaching position or two would be opening up in the near future. It would be a part-time position, but I was ok with that. Alternative education is important to me. When I was offered another part-time position tutoring at a local school, I turned it down, even though there was an opportunity to advance.

Then I was laid off.

At first it hurt. At first it felt like a door had been closed.

Finally I realized doors had actually OPENED. I had spent so much time thinking about how I could work on my position there, that I had been neglecting other opportunities – grad school, scholarships, PhD applications, strengthening my writing sample, presenting at conferences.

Since I no longer had to worry about that job, I got two other part-time jobs, both at the university where I am pursuing my M.A. This meant less commuting time. These jobs also taught me new skills (especially in social media!) and enhanced my application to PhD programs in English. Now I’m going exactly where I feel should be at this point in my life.

Instead of thinking so much about the past, I’m looking forward to the future.