What if on the day she was born there was a quiet storm of tiny
shimmering dust that settled on tree leaves, on flower petals,
on rooftops, on the ground, on the shiny work shoes, and
glided through open windows to settle on hardwood
floors? Maybe there was a storm of stardust and
this was how Laurice James Butler and
Octavia Margaret Butler gave
birth to a baby girl named
Octavia Estelle Butler,
a star child. Dawn
Laurice James Butler, who worked as a shoeshine man, and Octavia Margaret Butler, who worked as a live-in domestic servant, were married on May 17, 1931, in Los Angeles, California. On June 22, 1947, in Pasadena, California, they gave birth to a baby girl whom they named Octavia Estelle Butler.
Laurice died on February 16, 1951, when Octavia was almost four years old. She knew very little about her father. She was raised by her mother and grandmother—two hardworking and God-fearing matriarchs. For a brief period, she also lived with her two uncles, each like a father to her.
Octavia Margaret Butler, her mother, was the greatest constant in her life. She was born in Louisiana in 1914 and lived on a sugarcane plantation before migrating with her family—and hundreds of thousands of other African Americans—to Southern California as part of the Great Migration that was reshaping cities in the North and West.
Copyright © 2022 by Ibi Zoboi. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.