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Thread: ETS Book Club Book: Colson Whitehead's "The Underground Railroad"

  1. #181
    Join Date
    May 2012
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    @elevenism
    @Louie_Cypher
    @Sarah K @allegro

    Went to the local Barnes & Noble and they had a table for African American History month set up. Lots of great books by lots of great writers but there was one on the table that stuck out to me as "the manager just looked at the title." I chuckled and pointed it out to my wife. Should have taken a pic.

  2. #182
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    Dec 2011
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    Just read this for a book group tomorrow, and Colson Whitehead is coming to campus to speak in April.
    Very powerful, compelling book. I agree it really makes you re-consider the reality of slavery, makes you see it anew again. Also agree that it brings slavery into the present: this is not just history, but its effects and its consequences and the ideologies that made it happen are ongoing. I also liked that it started with Africa, illustrating the sudden and violent displacement - kidnapping - of Cora's grandmother, again emphasizing how this wasn't some mythic past but an utterly tangible one.

    Dislikes: Whitehead's writing style is in places still too vague. Sometimes I'd read a sentence multiple times and still not have a clear enough idea of its meaning. Also, the structure got repetitive, with many chapters climaxing in a violent and traumatic note. But I found it much much better - in a different league - than Zone One, the only other of his novels I've read. I also wish the book had incorporated more factual history - South Carolina, for example. Yes, I know I can follow up the stuff elsewhere, but I think the book would have been strengthened by a clearer historical and factual framework.

    One question I'd have is this: there seems to be some vitriol also reserved for abolitionists - Ethel in particular, and Fletcher (those comments about his sincerity), but also other remarks here and there throughout the book. I wonder if this is part of a conversation of not lionizing abolitionists and seeing also their cowardice or self-serving reasons (for example I've been reading bell hooks and she discusses how white female abolitionists were often motivated by anti-miscegenation sentiment). I'd like to know more about that aspect of the book and where it's coming from. I guess part of it is a general mistrust of whites until they prove themselves - as Sam does. But even Sam lets Cora down in a way by downplaying the threat that Ridgeway still represents.

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