Friday, March 23, 2012

Dyslexia: Octavia Butler Author Extraordinaire

Despite her Dyslexia, Octavia Butler was an award-winning author of thirteen books. She was a pioneer in the science fiction genre, winning both the Nebula and the Hugo Awards.

In 1995, Butler was honoured with a MacArthur fellowship, and in 2005, she was the recipient of the City College of New York's Langston Hughes Medal.

The Pen Center West awarded her with a lifetime achievement award. Tragically, she died in 2006, after a fall outside of her home.

Throughout her life Octavia never considered herself to be very bright, much less a genius. In fact, she struggled in school, where teachers interpreted her slow reading and inability to finish assignments in the allotted time, as laziness and an unwillingness to do the work.

But when given the time to write in school, Butler would weave tales that were so out-of-the-box her teacher assumed she had copied them from a published story.

When she was thirteen, one teacher did recognize her talents as a writer and encouraged her to submit a short story to a science fiction magazine, he even typed it out for her.

That story would be the first of many she submitted for publication, and would signify the moment Butler knew that she wanted to, and could, write for a living; however, Butler was writing stories for herself long before then.

A shy loner, Butler found solace and company in words. At as young as four years old, she was making up stories for herself; and as she recalls in an interview with the literary journal Callaloo, “By the time I was ten I was writing, and I carried a big notebook around so that whenever I had some time I could write in it.

That way, I didn’t have to be lonely. I usually had very few friends, and I was lonely. But when I wrote I wasn’t, which was probably a good reason for my continuing to write as a young kid. I read a lot also, for the same reasons.”

Despite her dyslexia, she was a bookworm, reading everything that she could find. Butler described how she got her first library card: “When I was six and was finally given books to read in school, I found them incredibly dull; they were Dick and Jane books. I asked my mother for a library card. I remember the surprised look on her face. She looked surprised and happy. She immediately took me to the library and got me a card. From then on the library was my second home.”

Butler’s mother only had three years of education, but she learned to read, and worked hard as a housekeeper to make sure that her daughter learned to read and went to school.

After high school, Butler went on to graduate from Pasadena City College with an Associates of Arts degree in 1968.

Read more of Octavia Butler's story here: Octavia Butler: Author

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