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The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad

by Colson Whitehead

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,8772571,948 (4.07)492
  1. 50
    Beloved by Toni Morrison (shaunie)
    shaunie: Morrison's masterpiece is a clear influence on Whitehead's book, and his is one of the very few I've read which bears comparison with it. In fact I'd go so far as to say it's also a masterpiece, a stunningly good read!
  2. 20
    Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters (elenchus)
    elenchus: That popular culture phenomenon of the uncanny twins, two works appearing together yet unrelated in authorship, production, inspiration. Why do they appear together? In this case, each is compelling enough to read based on their own, but for me irresistable now they've shown up onstage at the same time. Ben Winters's Underground Airlines a bizarro underground railroad, updated (for reasons left implicit) for air travel; Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad making the escape trail a concrete reality. Each also addresses our world, in between stations.… (more)
  3. 10
    Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (vwinsloe)
    vwinsloe: Both books use a magical means of transportation to illuminate the plight of refugees (runaway slaves in one and immigrants in the other.)
  4. 00
    Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup (charlie68)
    charlie68: Both describe the brutalities of slavery.
  5. 00
    Roots by Alex Haley (charlie68)
  6. 00
    The Known World by Edward P. Jones (lottpoet)
  7. 00
    Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (charlie68)
    charlie68: A classic not a pc one but from a southern viewpoint.
  8. 01
    Steal Away Home: One Woman's Epic Flight to Freedom - And Her Long Road Back to the South by Karolyn Smardz Frost (figsfromthistle)
  9. 01
    The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Disturbing Alternate Histories of America.

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» See also 492 mentions

English (241)  Spanish (4)  German (3)  Dutch (1)  Piratical (1)  Danish (1)  Italian (1)  Latvian (1)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  All languages (255)
Showing 1-5 of 241 (next | show all)
It's taken me some time to chew over what to say in a review of The Underground Railroad. Namely, how do you review a book about horrors that were not committed toward your ancestors? Horrors that your ancestors, in fact, may have committed?

Approaching this book, I wanted to assume a posture of listening and learning, attempting (though brokenly) to grow in my understanding.

In that regard, The Underground Railroad did not disappoint.

As I listened to the audiobook, all I could think was: "This is what reading is all about. This is so important for me to hear." The atrocities committed against slaves and blacks in America are easy to forget when we relegate their stories to textbooks and history classes. For me, The Underground Railroad was a powerful reminder of the importance (and power) of narrative in helping us understand not only history, but the experiences of another human being.

And this is what I love about books. I will never understand what it's like to be a black slave in pre-Civil War America. Or even to be a black person in modern America. But I can begin to listen, learn, and grow through hearing their stories.

Another powerful message from The Underground Railroad is that it's incredibly easy to celebrate all the good aspects of our country while completely forgetting the horror, evil, and despicable actions of Americans who killed, plundered, and destroyed the lives of Native Americans and blacks. We cannot forget that much (if not most) of our country was built on the backs of slaves and the oppressed. We cannot sanitize history to ease our consciences. Erasing the horror only makes us blind to the world we've created — the world we live in today.

Choosing to intentionally avoid stories like The Underground Railroad is choosing to live asleep. It's choosing to willfully ignore — or even worse, willfully deny — the realities of our country's origins, and the roots of so many racial tensions today. You cannot torture, murder, and dehumanize an entire people group for over two hundred years and then expect all the remnants of that torture to be gone within a few generations.

I know all of these things have been said before, by people much smarter, wiser, and more attuned to the nuances of racial tension than I am. But this is why I think The Underground Railroad is an incredibly important read.

My minor critique: From a purely personal standpoint, The Underground Railroad was not the most engaging book I've ever picked up. If I hadn't been listening to it on audiobook, I think it would have been easy to put it down and not pick it back up. I think the reason isn't the content, which was powerful, thought provoking, and highly relevant.

I think the problem for me was more in the style. I wish some of the portions had been in first person, or had delved deeper into the character's psyche. Whitehead's writing felt a bit ... clinical, for lack of a better word. The story was powerful. The plot was interesting. But the way it was written just wasn't my favorite.

So that's my struggle. On the one hand, you have this incredibly moving story that shines a bright light on the attitudes, atrocities, and belief systems of the slavery-era South. But on the other hand, you have story that stalled, dragged along, and lost my interest at times.

At the end of the day, not every important story is going to have the readability that suits our absolute particular preferences, and that's ok.

Should you still read it? Absolutely. But maybe check out the audiobook.

Read the review on my blog at bigdipperbooks.com. ( )
  melissa_faith | Mar 16, 2019 |
So much pain. This is a tremendous achievement. Fine writing. Carefully structured storytelling. An aggregation of pain and evil inflicted not just by an overseer or a plantation owner but by communities, cities, states and an entire country.

Finding new ways to shock and create empathy for centuries of injustice and bone-deep rottenness, Whitehead has written something good and valuable. The discomfort comes from feeling the continued importance of reading these stories. ( )
  asxz | Mar 13, 2019 |
Mind-numbing angst, physically exhausting, tense reading. A very timely and needed book. No white-washing or romantic notions of slavery are left unturned and exposed. ( )
  Bibliofemmes | Mar 10, 2019 |
The Underground Railroad offers food for thought on multiple levels. The Underground Railroad is imaginative and open to interpretation. Each station has a different appearance and who built the railroad is intriguing to ponder. ‘Solutions’ to slaves outnumbering whites evoke unsettling history and/or dystopia comparisons. It can be debated which 'solution' is the most horrifying. Questions of race relations, freedom, and hope challenge perception. The Underground Railroad offers thought provoking historical fiction. ( )
  Roxanne_Reading | Mar 10, 2019 |
The idea of an actual railroad built underground transporting slaves to freedom is neat, but the novel itself could stand alone without the railroad. ( )
  niquetteb | Mar 1, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 241 (next | show all)
Der Roman des afroamerikanischen Autors Colson Whitehead über die Sklaverei in den USA des 19. Jahrhunderts kommt in deutscher Übersetzung nun gerade recht, um auf den heutigen Rassismus zu verweisen.

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Colson Whiteheadprimary authorall editionscalculated
Testa, MartinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Turpin, BahniNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The first time Caesar approached Cora about running north, she said no.
. . . for justice may be slow and invisible, but it always renders its true verdict in the end.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. Their first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels.… (more)

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