Honoring Pasadena’s Sci-fi Genius Octava E. Butler

Washington STEAM Multilingual Academy creates mural, renames library to honor alumnus and prolific sci-fi writer Octavia E. Butler

Image courtesy of Roberto Quintana, Art & Soul Productions (click on image to enlarge)


Pasadena-born science fiction writer Octavia Estelle Butler likely lived the typical writer’s life. She buried herself in books and spent evenings at the library instead of at dances. She was determined to be a writer. As her legend holds, she wrote in her notebooks, “I shall be a bestselling writer…I will find the way to do this. So be it! See to it!”

She eventually won more than her share of awards, including prestigious Nebula Awards, the Locus Award, and the Hugo Award, among many others. She was also the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship prize.

Born the only child of Octavia Margaret Guy, a housemaid, and Laurice James Butler, a shoeshine man, she grew up in Northwest Pasadena and attended Washington Middle School and John Muir High School, where she nurtured her dreams of being a writer.

And now the PUSD will honor her back. The library at Washington STEAM Multilingual Academy is now officially the Octavia E. Butler Library.

“She’s one of the first African American women to be recognized in the science fiction genre,” said Dr. Shannon Malone, Principal at Washington STEAM Multilingual Academy. “She also exemplifies the integration of science with the arts and humanities, and the expression of STEAM-integrated learning.”

Malone also noted that Washington STEAM aims to promote the love of reading and literacy through an author that students can relate to. Butler humbly describes herself as an “oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive.”

“This makes someone with her genius relatable,” noted Malone. “Middle school students (and really most people) can relate to the idea of feeling insecure or unmotivated when faced a large task, but you don’t have to be perfect to be great. She is proof that you can always get better, learn more, and achieve great things.”

“She set a goal for herself and who she was going to become very early in her writing career, so we included those statements in our mural to inspire our kids. You can set your sights on something and work towards it and actually realize it.”

Last night the PUSD Board of Education approved the library renaming in recognition of Octavia E. Butler. The school commemorated the space with the completion of a mural honoring Butler.

Washington STEAM will launch a new Science Fiction writing contest next year, that they hope to build into a large, ongoing annual event, to encourage other budding sci-fi writers.

The school also aims to forge a partnership with Butler’s estate to display some of Butler’s own possessions, such as her notes and books, similar to those on permanent display at the Huntington Museum.

And, said PUSD Coordinator of Signature Programs Shannon Mumulo, “This is just the beginning.”

“Washington STEAM is continuing to transform spaces around campus to create engaging indoor and outdoor learning environments. Plans include outdoor performance and creative spaces as well as additional murals of leaders in STEAM fields. “We will continue to highlight the great artists, designers, thinkers, and creators in STEAM fields to inspire creativity and inquiry.”

Plans are still in the works for a formal dedication ceremony for the Butler mural, said Malone.


Washington STEAM Multilingual Academy, 1505 N. Marengo Ave., Pasadena, (626) 396-5830 or visit www.pusd.us/site/Default.aspx?PageID=37.











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