God Is Change

Religious Practices and Ideologies in the Works of Octavia Butler

Edited by Aparajita Nanda and Shelby L. Crosby
Book Cover

PB: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2112-8
Publication: Jun 21

HC: $104.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-2111-1
Publication: Jun 21

Ebook: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2113-5
Publication: Jun 21

254 pages
6 x 9

Exploring Octavia Butler’s religious imagination and its potential for healing and liberation

Read the Introduction (PDF).


Throughout her work, Octavia E. Butler explored, critiqued, and created religious ideology. Her prescient thoughts on the synergy between politics and religion in America are evident in her 1993 dystopian novel, Parable of the Sower, and its 1998 sequel, Parable of the Talents. They explored, respectively, what happens during a divisive “cultural war” that unjustly impacts the disenfranchised, and the rise of a fascistic president, allied with white fundamentalist Christianity, who chants the slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

But religion, for Butler, need not be a restricting force. The editors of and contributors to God Is Change heighten our appreciation for the range and depth of Butler’s thinking about spirituality and religion, as well as how Butler’s work—especially the Parable and Xenogenesis series—offers resources for healing and community building. Essays consider the role of spirituality in Butler’s canon and the themes of confronting trauma as well as experiencing transformation and freedom. God Is Change meditates on alternate religious possibilities that open different political and cultural futures to illustrate humanity’s ability to endure change and thrive.

Contributors: Alexis Brooks de Vita, Phyllis L. Burns, Charlotte Naylor Davis, Ebony Gibson, Mary Grover, Gregory Hampton, Jennifer L. Hayes, Christopher Kocela, Michael Brandon McCormack, Keegan Osinski, Chuck Robinson, Tarshia L. Stanley, Brianna Thompson, Briana Whiteside, and the editors


“Staging conversations between Octavia Butler’s work and religious traditions from Hinduism to Buddhism and Ifá to Black Christianity, this expansive and evocative volume will be the starting point for all future discussions of Butler and religion. Attending to the rituals, sacred texts, and healing practices that feature in Butler’s writing, the rich essays collected in God Is Change speak to a great question of our time: how can spirituality animate movements for racial, economic, and gender justice even as religion is increasingly treated with suspicion? Whether you think Butler challenges the status quo or is a symptom of the status quo, today it is urgent that we creatively engage with her distinctive voice.”
Vincent Lloyd, Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies and Director of Africana Studies at Villanova University

God Is Change speaks urgently to today’s world, which is shaped by settler colonial racism and capitalist extraction—forces Octavia Butler powerfully critiques in her work. These essays document the myriad ways her fiction engages with spirituality to offer a vision of religion as community-centered praxis. Insisting on the clear-sighted recognition that we come together through histories of inequality and exclusion, Butler goes beyond utopian/dystopian binaries to offer us tools for the difficult and uneven work of shaping the future we desire.”
Sherryl Vint, University of California, Riverside, and author of Biopolitical Futures in Twenty-First Century Speculative Fiction

Table of Contents

Introduction | Aparajita Nanda and Shelby L. Crosby

Part I Spiritualities and Religious Constructs
1. Religious Science Fiction: Butler’s Changing God | Gregory Hampton
2. Transreligious World Building: Hindu Evocations in Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood | Aparajita Nanda
3. God Is Change, Impermanence Is Buddha Nature: Religious Syncretism in Butler’s Earthseed and Dōgen’s Zen | Christopher Kocela
4. Butler’s Invention of Scripture in Light of Hebrew Wisdom Literature | Charlotte Naylor Davis
5. Regarding the Other in Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis: Toward a Posthumanist Ethics | Mary M. Grover
6. Parable of the Talents as Genre Criticism and the Holy Spirit of Speculative Fiction | Chuck Robinson

Part II Trauma and Healing
7. “Only Actions”: Ritual and the Embodied Processing of Trauma in Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents | Keegan Osinski
8. Migration, Spirituality, and Restorative Spaces: Shape-Shifting to Heal in Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed | Briana Whiteside
9. “We Trade the Essence of Ourselves”: West African Spirituality in Xenogenesis’s Oankali | Ebony Gibson
10. The Healing and Harmful Effects of Work in Octavia Butler’s Short Stories “Crossover,” “The Book of Martha,” and “Speech Sounds” | Jennifer L. Hayes
11. Shapers of God: Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Womanist Theological Practice | Tarshia L. Stanley

Part III Black Liberation and Notions of Freedom
12. Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis Trilogy, Bloodchild, and the Androgynous Third | Alexis Brooks de Vita
13. Erotic Pedagogy in Parable of the Talents: Freedom and Community through Touch | Brianna Thompson
14. Black Women’s Prophecy: O. E. Butler’s Parables | Phyllis Lynne Burns
15. The Violence of Making America Great Again: Religion, Power, and Vulnerable Bodies in Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents | Michael Brandon McCormack
16. Creating New Worlds: Earthseed as a Tool for Black Liberation | Shelby L. Crosby

List of Contributors

About the Author(s)

Aparajita Nanda, recipient of a Visiting Associate Professorship at the University of California, Berkeley, now teaches at the University of California, Berkeley and Santa Clara University. She is the editor of Ethnic Literatures and Transnationalism: Critical Imaginaries for a Global Age and Black California: A Literary Anthology, and coeditor of The Strangled Cry: The Communication and Experience of Trauma and Romancing the Strange: The Fiction of Kunal Basu.

Shelby L. Crosby is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Memphis.