Octavia E. Butler

We at Nkengasong Press have a strong appreciation for the writers who have paved the way by inspiring others to dare pursue their passion for writing, and whose body of work have had a lasting impression on its readers. As such, we have decided to dedicate part of our blog to our debut series, Authors We Admire, where we provide brief bios of these esteemed authors, share their novels, and share their quotes that have resonated with us.

Image of Octavia Butler
Photo Credit: The Huntington Library

We launch this series with Octavia E. Butler. Butler was born in Pasadena, California on June 22, 1947. She came from humble beginnings; after losing her father at an early age, her mother worked as a maid to support their family. As a child, Butler was dyslexic, nonetheless, she had a strong passion for books, and refused to allow her condition to impede her love of reading. By the age of 10, Butler knew she wanted to become a writer. Although she did not formally begin her writing career until the 1970s when she was in her twenties, as a teenager, she began writing science fiction. After graduting with an associates degree from Pasadena City College, she attended the Clarion Fiction Writers Workshop which focused on science fiction writing.


Butler's path to success as a writer was not an easy one. For some time, her novels were not commercially embraced. During these years as an up-and-coming writer, Butler would wake up at 2 a.m. every day to write and then went to work her different day jobs--including as a potato chip inspector and a dishwasher.

What sets Butler apart from other black writers of her time is that her novels were a mixture of science fiction and African spiritualism. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant. Butler has also been honored with the PEN West Lifetime Achievement Award for her oeuvre.


Butler passed away from a stroke on February 24, 2006, when she was only 56 years old, and just as the popularity of her work had just began to rise. While she may not still be with us, Butler's legacy has continued to flourish. Currently, Ava DuVernay, writer, director and producer extraordinaire, is developing Butler's novel, Dawn, into a television series. Further, the Disney-owned television station, FX, has ordered the production of a pilot based on the Butler’s novel, Kindred.


We hope Butler's story inspires you to relentlessly pursue your purpose, whatever that purpose may be.