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MIT Reads: Dawn by Octavia Butler: Book

Dawn is the first book in Butler's Xenogenesis series.

“Butler sets the imagination free, blending the real and the possible.” —United Press International


"'Intelligence does enable you to deny facts you dislike. But your denial doesn’t matter.'" 

-- Octavia E. Butler, Dawn

Lilith lyapo awoke from a centuries-long sleep to find herself aboard the vast spaceship of the Oankali. Creatures covered in writhing tentacles, the Oankali had saved every surviving human from a dying, ruined Earth. They healed the planet, cured cancer, increased strength, and were now ready to help Lilith lead her people back to Earth—but for a price.

Crop of Dawn cover art by John Jude Palencar

Discussion Prompts

  1. Are the Oankali helping the humans?
  2. Why do the Oankali forbid Lilith writing implements? 
  3. If you were in Lilith's position, what would you take into consideration when choosing who to Awaken?
  4. Jdahya sees humanity's "two incompatible characteristics" -- being both intelligent and hierarchical -- as being the source of our problems.  What do you think of this assessment of humanity? 
  5. Why does Butler's work continue to resonate so powerfully today?

Series Adaptation

Ava DuVernay (Selma, A Wrinkle in Time) will be directing and executive producing Dawn as a television series -- the first work by Butler to be adapted for the screen. 

Read more about last year's announcement at Tor's website, and learn about Ava DuVernay's vision and story, check out her website and interview with Wired.

Main Characters


  • Lilith Iyapo
  • Joseph Shing
  • Tate Marah
  • Gabriel Rinaldi
  • Curt Loehr


  • Jdahya
  • Tediin
  • Nikanj
  • Kahguyaht