Clay’s Ark Summary and Review

Clay’s Ark, O.E. Butler

Photograph of the newest edition of Clay's Ark being held on top of Mind of My Mind. The Clay's Ark cover is dark green with a man holding his arms open to the world and a sphinx-like creature living inside of him.
Clay’s Ark and Mind of My Mind, 2 books in O.E. Butler’s Patternist Series

Clay’s Ark is the third book in the Patternist Series. It was published in 1984 by The Octavia Butler. More than any other book in this series, it is so important to read it in order. Clay’s Ark is not the best standalone novel. It can be confusing. All of that being said 4.5 stars.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Clay’s Ark Major Characters

  • Eli Doyle – Sole survivor of Clay’s Ark
  • Meda Boyd – Eli’s Lover
  • Jacob – Eli and Meda’s Clayark son
  • Gwyn and Lorene – Meda’s Sister-in-Laws
  • Clay Dana – Inventor of Clay’s Ark, brother of Seth Dana (who became part of the First Family of Patternists in previous book in the series, Mind of My Mind)
  • Blake Maslin – Doctor, Father to Keira and Rane
  • Keira Maslin – Battling leukemia
  • Rane Maslin – Keira’s twin sister
  • Ingraham and Lupe – Members of Eli’s Settlement
  • Stephen Kaneshiro – Newest Male Member of Eli’s Settlement
  • Wikipedia’s Character List is Dope!

“We’re the future, we’re the sporangia of the dominant life form of Proxi Two – the receptacles that produce the spores of that life form. If we survive, if our children survive, it will be because we fulfill our purpose – because we spread the organism… “

Eli

Who is Clay Dana?

At the beginning of Mind of My Mind, Clay Dana lived on an isolated ranch in Arizona with his active brother Seth. The combination of Seth’s protection and the isolation of the ranch prevented mental interference Clay couldn’t control. He was a latent prior to meeting Doro’s daughter and prodigy Mary. Latents were born with abilities but never transitioned. Therefore, they lived pretty miserable lives without control over their minds. But, when Mary becomes active and creates the pattern, in Mind of My Mind, Seth is dragged to California. He takes Clay with him. And Clay becomes one of the first adult latents Mary brings successfully through transition.

Clay wakes up free from mental interference, but also off of the pattern his brother shares with Mary and the other active telepaths. He is mightily rewarded with what Doro calls psychokinesis. (Who remembers Issac from Wild Seed?) Immediately after his transition, he picks Mary up into the air, and he is able to fly himself. Since he is no longer a part of Mary’s pattern, he is free to leave California.

The Dana Faction

Clay Dana left California and did not go back into isolation. Instead he went into science and leadership. The Dana Faction feared humanity would extinguish itself on Earth, the only planet that could support human life. This fear could be due to turn-of-the-century irrationality – religious overzealousness on one side, destructive hedonism on the other, with both heated by ideological intolerance and corporate greed (why did Octavia have to read us like that? LOL). But it was probably aided by Clay’s interaction with the telepaths, and his Congressional support may have also been aided by the telepaths he left behind in California.

Clay’s Ark, A Starship

Clay’s Ark became the solution. It is a starship with brand new faster-than-light technology that involved an exotic mix of physics and psionics. The Ark was powered by what Clay referred to as ‘parapsychological mumbo jumbo’ but he and many other scientists actually spent years testing and proving his theories correct. After winning Congressional support, the starship added pilots and a destination, Proxima Centauri Two (Proxi Two), a planet in another solar system that the Dana Faction hoped could support human life.

Meet Eli

Clay's Ark Fan Art By Alan Gutierrez Art that shows Eli walking away from a destroyed spaceship towards a desert landscape.
Clay’s Ark Fan Art By Alan Gutierrez Art, 2013, Commissioned and Published by Ace Books in 1984.

Eli (Asa Elias Doyle) and his wife were psionically-gifted and selected to pilot Clay’s Ark. Eli had been a geologist previously. Clay spent a lot of time with his pilots, teaching them to use their abilities to power the ship’s technology. Well, they made it to Proxi Two before things went awry. Once the crew landed and began gathering data, they discovered an organism in almost every plant and animal species they encountered.

Clayarks, Extraterrestrial Humans?

The organisms attached/attacked the humans. They were not intelligent. They did not tell their hosts how to stay alive or how to find new hosts. But, if the human possessed by these organisms did not find someone else to infect, they became intensely uncomfortable, causing their human host intense discomfort. People become increasingly separated from their humanity, until they are able to infect a new host. Then, they calm again. The pilots and scientists on the ship with Eli turned on each other, and likely set Clay’s Ark on a path back to Earth in an attempt to find more hosts for their organisms.

The ship died, and the people Eli loved the most died with it. He should have died too. But his enhanced survival drive saved him, even against his will. Eli became a prisoner in his skull, cut off from conscious control of his body. After the Ark crashed in the desert, Eli ran from rescuers, and fellow scientists, taking cover and nullifying the sacrifice his fellow pilots and shipmates had made. To his sorrow, to his ultimate shame, he brought the first extraterrestrial life to Earth.

Eli is the first of the Clayarks. He and his partners are the closest to human Clayarks are portrayed throughout the series. In Patternmaster, the fourth and final book in the series, the Clayarks will have evolved…

Review & Thoughts

Well, where you kill one Doro, two will pop up. We have Mary on the west coast, creating a colony of mind-reading slavers in Mind of My Mind and Clay on the east coast, bringing an alien invasion to a town near you via Clay’s Ark. The most interesting part is that Mary possesses supernatural mental agility/strength, and Eli is driven by an alien biological impulse that makes him and his people more coordinated, faster, and superior in every physical way. (Except that they look like zombies.)

When I consider the book in the context of the series, I give it 5 stars. By itself, it only gets 4, only because it is a little tough to pick up on who Clay Dana is and how important that is to the Dana Drive. We are essentially seeing the descendants of Issac, Anyanwu, and Doro from Wild Seed, go HAM.

Thinking Forward

What would you do if you found out you were infected with a diesease and bound to have alien babies? What if you wanted the sex that resulted in those children terribly bad? (Think about Meda with Eli before she was infected.)

The people that have been “othered” in society have faced rhetoric just like this. People have disowned their flesh and blood because it’s ‘tainted’ with ‘alienness’. I think it is important to remember that an alien is anything foreign to you. That does not mean the foreign thing cannot feel, think, and communicate in a way that you don’t understand. It is fascinating. The next book presents new questions that leave one asking, how would you treat an alien in your backyard?

From what I gather from those who have studied the history of genocide – its definition and application – there seems to be a pattern. Nation-states, governments seeking legitimacy and identity, seem able and determined to shape themselves by the destruction of a collective “other”.

Toni Morrison, The Source of Self REgard, 20.
Banner that says Patternist Series , A Positively Black Book Series, with the hashtag Rethinking Radicalism
Click the Astronaut to head to the Patternist Series Hub!

Clay’s Ark in the Book Community

Part of the Patternist Series review was in conjunction with This Browne Girl Reads, a semi-exclusive book club and community dedicated to reading the Black diaspora. Check out this talk about Clay’s Ark with Dee, Jaimey, and WD.

ONYX Pages is a bookish content creator in love with speculative fiction, science fiction, fantasy, magial realism, and horror. (We have a lot in common!) They are leading a slow read of Octavia Butler that is tantilizing. Check out the replay of Clay’s Ark:

Sistah SciFi is the first Black-owned bookstore focused on scifi & fantasy. Sis is focused on casting spells to uplift the work of Black and Native womxn. There is only one place for fan gear. Sistah SciFi is also the plug for virtual events.

Screenshot of Sistah SciFi's apparel store featuring t-shirts with Octavia Butler's novels on them, and other gear with the names "Octavia &, Nnedi &, Tomi &, Nalo &, NK."
+ BLK is accepting gift cards. LMAO. Click the image to go directly to the shop for litmerch.

Keep checking back for more Clay’s Ark in the Community!

Money Gods Aren’t the Way to Liberation

Black people will not capitalism our way to Liberation

Me

Money gods: What do I mean?

Capitalism is a religion. It demands continued sacrifices to the money god at all costs.

The fairy tale of Capitalism only “worked” because duplicitous White people murdered, raped, and pillaged their way through a continent (plus) worth of land and resources. [See The History of American Imperialism, From Bloody Conquest to Bird Poop].

That truth coupled with centuries of chattel slavery pretty much mean that unpaid labor and manufacturing quite literally built the United States’ economy. [A long steep rise in US inequality took place between 1800 and 1860, matching the widening income gaps we have witnessed since the 1970s. Learn more about the rise of inequality during the Gilded Age on Time Magazine.]

It is the same economy that Black and Brown folks are being sacrificed for to this day. Because that’s what Capitalism dictates. [In the 1970’s and 80’s, while jobs were being outsourced at an unparalleled rate, labor movements broken up, and wages driven down, the political-legal apparatus of the U.S. underwent a period of massive reform. Under the guise of being “tough on crime,” new laws were introduced that increased penalties for non-violent offenses. Enforcement of these laws—primarily in poor communities of color—dispossessed large swaths of the poorest and most disadvantaged groups of people. Learn more from the Civil Liberties Defense Center.]

Whether it’s the lack of collective bargaining rights for workers, CEO to entry level employee salary gaps, or the lack of worker protections that have been put on full display during this pandemic – It is absolutely no surprise that the people being put in harms way for low wages are disproportionately Black and Brown or poor if White. [CEO compensation has grown 940% since 1978 according to the Economic Policy Institute.][Making Worker Protections Real During the Coronavirus Pandemic.]

Capitalism is fundamentally predicated on the exploitation of a slave class or permanent socioeconomic underclass (colloquially known as working people or more recently the working poor). [Learn more about the working poor from PolicyLink.]

What I mean to say is that we will be paying the money gods for our freedom into eternity. IF we continue to buy the premise that we can Capitalism our way to Liberation. We cannot Black people, we must find another way.

I know that we have been a historically impoverished people. But that means we need to meet our immediate material needs. Not be racing to out earn each other and flash nicer gear. We have to think about the future we are leaving our children outside of the dollar bill.

Black people will not Capitalism our way to Liberation

Me

Peace.

For more information about alternatives to Capitalism stay tuned to Positively Black. And check out the following resources –

Alternatives to Capitalism By Richard D. Wolff, University of Massachusetts Amherst

To Find Alternatives to Capitalism, Think Small: Why co-ops, regional currencies, and hackerspaces are pointing the way toward a new economic vision By David Bollier for the Nation

Nonviolent Alternatives to Capitalism By Brian Martin for War Resisters International, London

Money gods aren't the way to liberation

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What do you think the best move is for the community? Does it differ than what is best for you and your household?

Clap When You Land By Elizabeth Acevedo, Review

“Clap When You Land” is the first Elizabeth Acevedo book I have ever read and I fell in love with her writing style and storytelling. Acevedo is an American Dominican Poet and Performer and I think the best way to meet her is in the following self-reading of her book.

Acevedo reading ‘I’m So Damn Dominican” a short snippet from “Clap When You Land”

The poet has published five books, including a short story anthology entitled “Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths”. And she has landed on The NY Times Bestseller List for “The Poet X” and “With the Fire on High”.

“Clap When You Land” is her fourth novel. She is a DC chick with a BA in Performing Arts from George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. Home girl is the truth. And clearly she is representing the DMV and bringing home a lot of love.

I was given “Clap When You Land” to read in one of my favorite social media spaces, This Browne Girl Reads. It’s a semi-exclusive book club powered by super talented Black women that blend community with individual reading. There are always amazing books being read and featured from YA like this one to mystery, romance, and classics.  

The “Clap When You Land” Hardback Book

First of all, the book was worth the money. I bought the hardback version and have no regrets. It’s beautiful with the cover and without. Once I finished the book, I appreciated the cover and it’s design even more. The wording is spaced out and it makes the book very easy to read, not to mention it’s written in verse.

“I was raised so damn Dominican. Spanish my first language, bachata a reminder of the power of my body, platano & salami for years before I ever tasted peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. If you asked me what I was, & you meant in terms of culture, I’d say Dominican. No hesitation, no question about it. Can you be from a place you have never been? You can find the island stamped all over me, but what would the island find if I was there? Can you claim a home that does not know you much less claim you as its own?”

Yahaira Rios, First Generation Dominican American (“Clap When You Land”, page 97)

Setting & Characters

The story starts in the mud of a resort town on the Dominican coast and swaps between that and the concrete of a barrio in Domincan New York. Papi Rios has two teenage daughters when he dies, one in the Dominican [Camino Rios] and another in Morningside Heights, New York [Yahaira Rios].     

My favorite character in the book is Dre, Yahira’s love interest in New York. We all deserve a Dre in our lives and that is all I want to say about it. No spoiler alerts in this write up!!  

Themes

There were some interesting themes at play:

  • dreams vs realities in a globalizing world;
  • the dualisms and complexities of belonging;
  • dangers and payoffs with travel, transportation, and globalism;
  • the predatory nature of resorts;
  • friendship and connection between women;
  • the complexities and imperfections of maternal bonds;
  • familial masculinity versus foreign masculinity;
  • and the immigrant’s tale.

One would think that those are some super complex themes for Young Adult (YA). But that isn’t the case. As a genre, YA can be just as challenging and thought-provoking as any other fiction subgenre. YA literature is beautiful for addressing real life. “Clap When You Land” is no exception; however, there is no sexual tension or anything explicitly adult. 

“Clap When You Land” Tackles Grief

That doesn’t mean the book doesn’t tackle adult issues or deal with adult matters. “Clap When You Land” has the most accurate and beautiful portrayal of grief that I have read in a long time. Acevedo deeply moved me in the simplest ways, with words that seem incredibly straightforward. What she’s created here is deceptively difficult. It may appear easy but to write this gracefully and communicate the level of emotion and storytelling she’s accomplished bears the mark of genius.    

I read this book from cover to cover in one sitting. And I cried a little bit. It was pretty sad to read what Camino, Yahaira, and their families on either side of the ocean have to deal with after the death of Papi. But it was also so refreshing because I have dealt with my own losses recently.

The story made me feel very human and it helped remind me, again, how human we all are. And I am not an immigrant, nor am I Dominican. These experiences are fairly foreign to me from the persepctive, but the longing for home, culture, and family coupled with death make this story remarkeable. 

“Clap When You Land” on Leaving Home:

“Does anyone ever want to leave their home? The fresh fruit that drops from their backyard? The neighbors who wiped their snot? Does anyone ever want to believe they won’t come back? To the dog that sniffs their heel, to the bed that holds the echo of their body? Is there relief in pretending it is temporary, that one day it will be safe? That I will once again wave to the kid school bus driver.

They have no palm trees in New York City, no leaves to shade me, to brush against my cheeks like my mother’s hands. There is no one ever there, alive or buried, who knew me as a child, who cradled me close, who fed me from their table, who wiped my knees when I fell & scraped them. Here, despite the bad & ugly, is my home. And now I wish that I could stay. Does anyone ever want to leave the place they love?”

“Clap When You Land”, page 401

On Genre

I would recommend this a thousand times even if it’s not you’re favorite genre or even if you don’t love YA. It’s not my favorite genre either. There was not one dragon, or explosion, or invisibility spell. But. There was a lot of real love, raw loss, true loyalty, hard growth, and beautiful friendship. And if COVID hasn’t taught me anything, it has taught me the importance of all the things listed above.  

Acevedo the Poet

Throughout this post I have shared some of my favorite quotes but a fun fact about Elizabeth Acevedo. She is a POET through and through. You can’t experience her work correctly unless you read it DIRECTLY from her. She has spaced the stanzas, laid out the beat, and given you the information you need to understand her. I can only quote her and it is not the same! And I recommend this book a thousand times for you, your teens, parents, and friends too. 

“I am clothed in beginnings & endings. A lucky & unlucky garment. But isn’t every life adorned with both? We will see what this black brings me today.”

“Clap When You Land”, page 406

For More about “Clap When You Land” and Elizabeth Acevedo,

Acevedo on the Web: www.acevedowrites.com

Follow her @acevedowrites on all social media platforms

Elizabeth Acevedo’s ‘Clap When You Land’ To Be Adapted Into a TV Series

Caught Between Worlds? For Elizabeth Acevedo, It’s a Familiar Feeling

Clap When You Land By Elizabeth Acevedo, A Book Review

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Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – 10 Things To Know

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

First, let’s get this out the way. I know we all love quoting the infamous “I Have a Dream” speech. And I also know that many of us pretend colorblindness, integration, and interracial dating was his American Dream.

Well, that’s the whitewashed version that’s inaccurate at best and a collection of insidious lies at worst. Do me a favor. If you see or saw anyone sharing that watered basic-ness, then share these 10 things to know about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with them.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at an airport in Holland.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 10 Things We Should All Know

1. Most people viewed Dr. King unfavorably while he was alive, he fought against racism AND classism, and he was killed for it.

2. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an amazingly, imperfect human being who used radical nonviolence to expose the immorality of the racist, classist American social order. He came from an upper middle-class family. He started college at Morehouse at age 16. One of his mentors was Benjamin E. Mays. King was 26 when he became a spokesperson for the Montgomery bus boycott. He was jailed 29 times. He was also known for making everyone around him laugh. MLK had his flaws too; for example, he was prone to extramarital affairs (it is what it is). 

3. His wife, Coretta Scott King was amazing in her own right, and held their family down while King was fighting for a better world. They frequently lived under threat of death, and were constantly surveilled by the U.S. government. The King family home was bombed on multiple occasions.

4. Regardless, King did have a Dream; and representation was only part of that dream. The majority of that speech talked about racialized economic inequality and the U.S. failing to live up to its lofty ideals. 

5. It’s okay to celebrate Barack Obama, Kamala Harris, Oprah Winfrey, Jay Z, and other people who represent the highest levels of individual Black excellence. (And its also okay to critique them since none of us are perfect.)

6. Despite those and many more individually striving Black people; as a group, in many ways, Black Americans in 2020 are worse off than we were in 1968, the year Dr. King died. Hear me out… There are many things that are way better (e.g. education, racial violence in general, aspects of integration, homeownership ever so slightly). On the other hand, Black incarceration rates are 3x higher and income/wealth gaps between Black and White people are wider now than they were in 1968. Income inequality and worker protections in gernal are worse too.

7. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. #DemiTasse. His wife was a sister of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. His circle was filled with members of other NPHC Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs). He was one part of an entire movement of people from various walks of life that started before him and continued after his death.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with his wife at an airport in Netherlands.

8. If we really want to honor King’s legacy we must talk about the fact that he was killed AFTER he began speaking out about the Vietnam War and the military industrial complex, after he said we have socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for the poor, and as he was on the way to a sanitation workers strike. 

9. If we really want to honor his legacy today, we must be intersectional in our fight against racism and we must treat income and wealth inequality as the dangerous threat he knew it was more than 50 years ago. 

10. One day we may truly be able to say from the mountain top that the highest definition of his dream is our reality and that is why we celebrate MLK Day! Sadly, that day is not in 2021. So let’s continue pressing on. Positively.

For more information on Dr. and Mrs. King,

The Nobel Prize – Biographical Facts on Martin Luther King Jr.

The King Center – About Dr. King

The King Center – About Mrs. King

History.com Editors – Martin Luther King Jr, Updated Jan 14, 2021

Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 10 Things You Should Know

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Also, are elected officials a waste of time? Find out the answer to that and other questions with Imani.

Image credits: Martin and Coretta in Nederland. Courtesy of Collectie Fotoburo de Boer. These images are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) license.

Elected Officials: A waste of time? And other questions.

Can you hold elected officals acountable?

Can someone define “holding elected officials accountable” because the more I see that phrase used the emptier I’m realizing it is. What does it look like to hold someone accountable for the migrant children lost by Homeland Security? How do we hold someone accountable for neglecting the healthcare needs of trans people? Who was held accountable and is continuing to be held accountable for genocide against Black people in this country? Asking for myself because I’m really starting to think this idea of electoral accountability is a delusion we’re all holding on to because it allows us to feel like we have agency under our government rather than being victims of it.

What good is voter outreach?

While y’all celebrate the election results, I’ll continue grieving the fact that rather than using our resources, time, and talents to fortify local mutual aid networks that can sustain and protect us regardless of who the elected officials are, we instead put that energy and effort into elections, pamphlets, yard signs, social media tech company coffers, Halloween candy and snacks for the sake of “voter outreach”.

6 Things to do instead of voter outreach to increase community resiliency

  1. Erect community fridges.
  2. Devise systems to deliver fresh and nutrituous food to our people.
  3. Free Black and Brown folks from cages using community bail oranization.
  4. Get houseless people off the streets by winter.
  5. Create and support funds for emergency medical procedures and unexpected circumstances.
  6. Advocate for climate and environmental equity. (Small Rant: Or are we turning a blind eye to the collossal amount of materials waste? What about fossil fuels when volunteers are driving across states to knock on doors? We excuse everything in the name of supporting our elected officials. I’m sure campaigns were some of the biggest plastic water bottle pushers this year.)

What are we doing?

All of this is to say, I am really confused about what are we actually doing… What is it we actually want?

Because impact > intent and we seem collectively committed to the wrong solutions. And though I do see people that are critical of electoral politics few seem ready to talk about what we really need to do here…

Divest from electoral politics all together.

For more information,

On Migrant Children in the United States:

Lawyers say they can’t find the parents of 545 migrant children separated by Trump administration, NBC News, October 2020

Why Homeland Security lost track of kids it separated at the border, Fedreal Times, December 2019

Here’s what’s really happening with the 1,500 ‘missing’ immigrant children, CNN, May 2018

On Healthcare for Transpeople:

Transgender discrimination in healthcare: What families should know, Boston Children’s Hospital, July 2020

Barriers to Health Care fpr Trangender Individuals, US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, April 2017

On Black Genocide in America:

In 1951, the Civil Rights Congress, affiliated with the Communist Party, engaged in a campaign to hold the United States acountable for genocide against African Americans, they used 152 incidents in support of the campaign. The incidents involved were killings of unarmed Black men and women by police and lynch mobs between 1945 and 1951. Imani is arguing the Black genocide continues on similar terms today. It was also an attempt by an organization of Black people to hold American elected officals accountable.

“We Charge Genocide” The 1951 Black Lives Matter Campaign, University of Washington Mapping American Social Movements Project

From Slavery to Contemporary Genocide; A Literary and Linguistic Analysis of Why American Blacks Deserve Reparations, Jstor, 2011

Are elected officials a waste of time? And other questions.

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