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The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
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The Underground Railroad (2016)

by Colson Whitehead

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,0993161,448 (4.06)576
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)
  1. 90
    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. 10
    Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup (charlie68)
    charlie68: Both describe the brutalities of slavery.
  5. 10
    Roots by Alex Haley (charlie68)
  6. 10
    The Known World by Edward P. Jones (lottpoet)
  7. 10
    Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (sturlington)
  8. 00
    The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates (g33kgrrl)
    g33kgrrl: Two amazing authors, two different literary approaches to the underground railroad, two stories, one terrible time in US history.
  9. 01
    Steal Away Home: One Woman's Epic Flight to Freedom - And Her Long Road Back to the South by Karolyn Smardz Frost (figsfromthistle)
  10. 01
    The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Disturbing Alternate Histories of America.
  11. 04
    Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (charlie68)
    charlie68: A classic not a pc one but from a southern viewpoint.
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» See also 576 mentions

English (292)  Spanish (5)  German (3)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (2)  Piratical (1)  Danish (1)  Italian (1)  Latvian (1)  All languages (310)
Showing 1-5 of 292 (next | show all)
This was a challenging, brutal book that also contained sentences so beautiful I would read them several times over. I think I might need some time to let the author's decisions sink in. ( )
  nancyjean19 | Jun 3, 2020 |
I liked this, but there were a lot of things that I thought weren’t very well done. It was at times difficult to keep track of which character did what, especially because we were usually in Cora’s head but sometimes stepped out of her even though overall we were inside her POV, and sometimes the timelines were quite mixed up and difficult to keep track of. I also didn’t really get the „interlude“ chapters from other POVs, especially the one from Dr. Stevens’ past - why was it relevant that he was a gravedigger (and knew Boseman)? Was it just to emphasize how ruthless he is? But I think we got that from the rest of the story as well.

Maybe I just didn’t think this was as good because I just recently read Homegoing, which was absolutely outstanding. ( )
  j_tuffi | May 30, 2020 |
This book will forever be relevant however in my opinion, it is a hugely relevant time to read it right now. Throughout it tells of white people consistently feeling threatened by the growing black population. They abuse, denigrate and treat Cora and co as subhuman(exception of a few characters who respected them).

Whitehead basically summarises the various acts of abuse that black people faced at the hands of white people. It goes from the very familiar such as slaves on a plantation to a more insipid and subtle form of subjugation that often get overlooked or glossed over.

The below quote sums up how important it is(have spoilered but not a major spoiler), the racism that drove such ideas of sterilisation is still very much so present. We still here the same rhetoric and paranoid fear over being outnumbered. Much of America is far from colorblind unfortunately and fails to realise how it is still born in the same racism that made slavery thrive.

Still, the barkeep must have seen the editorials over the years, the doctor insisted, expressing anxiety over this very topic. America has imported and bred so many Africans that in many states the whites are outnumbered. For that reason alone, emancipation is impossible. With strategic sterilization – first the women but both sexes in time – we could free them from bondage without fear that they’d butcher us in our sleep.


We're at a point in history where society seems to have transformed in many ways for the worse. We simply cannot allow for such wholly intolerant views to gain too much of a foothold. It's applicable to many groups in society which are viewed as outsiders and viewed as dangerous as a result. ( )
  Conor.Murphy | May 27, 2020 |
Whitehead creates a tour de force with this novel. The historic underground railroad which helped slaves exit the south becomes a literal underground railroad. Curious readers will want to explore historical works to see how Whitehead weaves historical fact into this work. One good place to begin to explore this history is the New Yorker book review of April 27, 2020 by Caleb Cairn. Cairn reviews David Zucchino's "Wilmington Lie" as well as discussing two works of fiction that dealt with the 1898 event. Whitehead continues the tradition of Charles Chestnut and David Bryant Fulton as well as many others who set out in fiction what the American public was not ready to read as historical fact. ( )
  MitchChabraja | May 27, 2020 |
Y'aaaaaall. This was an amazing, heart wrenching, spectacular novel. I was so absorbed in Whitehead's writing and the story of Cora. It's painful, it's joyful, it's frustrating and infuriating. But Whitehead has done a marvelous job of creating a full set of characters in a rich landscape. This was my first Whitehead novel but it definitely won't be my last! ( )
  bookishtexpat | May 21, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 292 (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.
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. . . for justice may be slow and invisible, but it always renders its true verdict in the end.
‘I’m what botanists call a hybrid,’ he said the first time Cora heard him speak. ‘A mixture of two different families. In flowers, such a concoction pleases the eye. When that amalgamation takes its shape in flesh and blood, some take great offense. In this room we recognize it for what it is -- a new beauty come into the world, and it is in bloom all around us.’
Georgina said the children make of it what they can. What they don't understand today, they might tomorrow. 'The Declaration is like a map. You trust that it's right, but you only know by going out and testing it yourself.'
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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