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

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    BOOK CLUB THREAD NOW WITH SPOILERS: Colson Whitehead's "The Underground Railroad"

    Okay, a few of us have expressed interest in reading and discussing Colton Whitehead's "The Underground Railroad."

    Those who have expressed interest so far, besides moi:

    @elevenism
    @allegate
    @Louie_Cypher
    @Sarah K

    Let's come up with a deadline date for purchase of the book. (I have it, already, on Kindle.)

    Let's also discuss the pace in which we want to read, e.g. one chapter per two weeks, one chapter per month?

    Note that the plan is to read the chapter, then discuss, and we shouldn't get ahead of the current chapters in the discussion.

    If people plan to get this from the library, we'll need to keep that in mind as far as the schedule. BUT, whatever deadlines we come up with, we really need to adhere to them; the last several attempts at a book club were DESTROYED by people not adhering to deadlines.

    I nominate myself to guide the discussions this time.
    Last edited by allegro; 12-30-2016 at 12:28 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by allegro View Post
    Okay, a few of us have expressed interest in reading and discussing Colton Whitehead's "The Underground Railroad."

    Those who have expressed interest so far, besides moi:

    @elevenism
    @allegate
    @Louie_Cypher

    Let's come up with a deadline date for purchase of the book.

    Let's also discuss the pace in which we want to read, e.g. one chapter per two weeks, one chapter per month?

    Note that the plan is to read the chapter, then discuss, and we shouldn't get ahead of the current chapters in the discussion.

    If people plan to get this from the library, we'll need to keep that in mind as far as the schedule. BUT, whatever deadlines we come up with, we really need to adhere to them; the last several attempts at a book club were DESTROYED by people not adhering to deadlines.

    I nominate myself to guide the discussions this time.
    ok i'm on board.

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    I'm in! I bought it on Amazon today.

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    i have it too.

    also: @allegro if we read only one chapter per month, i will have forgotten the first chapter by the time we get to the third :P

    So i guess my vote is for the shorter end of the spectrum when it comes to pace.
    Last edited by elevenism; 12-16-2016 at 12:56 PM.

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    Also at that pace I think most libraries would hate you after awhile.

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    I only recommended that if people are sloooooooooow readers, heh (and I was kinda being sarcastic)

    @allegate and @Louie_Cypher , do you have the book? Are we ready to set a start date?

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    just got it today i am ready
    -louie

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    Awesome. @allegate , are you ready?

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    Let's get this started by watching this:

    Last edited by allegro; 12-16-2016 at 08:41 PM.

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    For those who have not read Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, this might help for our discussion and analysis: CLICK HERE
    Last edited by allegro; 12-16-2016 at 08:42 PM.

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    Mine arrived today, too. Gotta love that one day free shipping on some things!

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    Ooooh this won the national book award. This cat is a writer​ then.
    So okay like after watching the video, this is magical realism used to link different historical fiction type elements, perhaps used to make a statement about contemporary issues?

    (i'm sure that's a reductive analysis considering all of the buzz surrounding this thing, but this is the first i have heard of it and thus my first impression)
    Last edited by elevenism; 12-16-2016 at 11:25 PM.

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    Sounds like a good impression; let's find out! :-)

    How about if we all start reading this tomorrow and read the first Chapter, "Ajarry," and begin discussing it ... say ... ON TUESDAY, DECEMBER 20TH??

    Is everybody cool with that?

    * Read Chapter One "Ajarry" beginning NOW
    * Begin discussing on December 20th, Tuesday


    @elevenism , @Sarah K , @allegate , @Louie_Cypher
    Last edited by allegro; 12-17-2016 at 12:02 AM.

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    i will read it now. right after i make sure i understand all this new nin business properly, but yes, i will read it tonight.

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    Well, yeah and I am working on Christmas and Holiday stuff too but I'll fit it in; if anyone is having problems with the deadline, say so and we can extend it since it IS a busy time of year.

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    yes let's set a date
    -louie

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    Quote Originally Posted by Louie_Cypher View Post
    yes let's set a date
    -louie
    We did. Look 3 posts up. Read Chapter One now, we discuss it this upcoming Tuesday.

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    starting today literally starting page one right now.
    -louie

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    i read the chapter. i had a really hard time not reading ahead, but i want to do this right.

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    I had to go to a ballet last night, I'll start sometime today (after vacuuming the friggin' house)

    it's hard to tell how LONG the chapters are with a Kindle; if these are short chapters, maybe we can do two at a time?

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    Quote Originally Posted by allegro View Post
    We did. Look 3 posts up. Read Chapter One now, we discuss it this upcoming Tuesday.
    enjoyable so far, was a little nervous when it was an \Oprah book club but very enjoyable so far
    -l-louie

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    @allegro, i THINK the second chapter is quite a bit longer than the first (and i'm guessing the subsequent chapters are too.) I think the first chapter was meant to be kind of a jarring little acclimatization. (acclimation? you know what i mean :P )
    It said that the first chapter was "4 minutes" long, and the second was like "1 hour 50 min."
    I don't fully understand how it calculates this yet. Maybe someone with the actual book can give us some insight here?

    But yeah, the first chapter seemed to be about 10 pages long.
    Last edited by elevenism; 12-18-2016 at 01:17 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by elevenism View Post
    @allegro, i THINK the second chapter is quite a bit longer than the first (and i'm guessing the subsequent chapters are too.) I think the first chapter was meant to be kind of a jarring little acclimatization. (acclimation? you know what i mean :P )
    It said that the first chapter was "4 minutes" long, and the second was like "1 hour 50 min."
    I don't fully understand how it calculates this yet. Maybe someone with the actual book can give us some insight here?

    But yeah, the first chapter seemed to be about 10 pages long.
    Thanks. Good to know. Yeah, Kindle has this calculation of estimated time-to-read based on the average reader. So ....

    BASED ON THIS INFORMATION ...

    I suggest we continue on and ALSO READ CHAPTER 2, and let's move the "discussion" deadline to to THURSDAY DECEMBER 22ND.

    @Sarah K , @elevenism , @allegate , @elevenism
    Last edited by allegro; 12-18-2016 at 01:48 PM.

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    Also, here is a handy Book Club Guide that I ripped off from Oprah, that we can keep in mind as we read this book:

    BOOK CLUB GUIDE

    1. How does the depiction of slavery in The Underground Railroad compare to other depictions in literature and film?
    2. The scenes on Randall’s plantation are horrific—how did the writing affect you as a reader?
    3. In North Carolina, institutions like doctor’s offices and museums that were supposed to help ‘black uplift’ were corrupt and unethical. How do Cora’s challenges in North Carolina mirror what America is still struggling with today?
    4. Cora constructs elaborate daydreams about her life as a free woman and dedicates herself to reading and expanding her education. What role do you think stories play for Cora and other travelers using the underground railroad?
    5. “The treasure, of course, was the underground railroad... Some might call freedom the dearest currency of all.” How does this quote shape the story for you?
    6. How does Ethel’s backstory, her relationship with slavery and Cora’s use of her home affect you?
    7. What are your impressions of John Valentine’s vision for the farm?
    8. When speaking of Valentine’s Farm, Cora explains “Even if the adults were free of the shackles that held them fast, bondage had stolen too much time. Only the children could take full advantage of their dreaming. If the white men let them.” What makes this so impactful both in the novel and today?
    9. What do you think about Terrance Randall’s fate?
    10. How do you feel about Cora’s mother’s decision to run away? How does your opinion of Cora’s mother change once you’ve learned about her fate?
    11. Whitehead creates emotional instability for the reader: if things are going well, you get comfortable before a sudden tragedy. What does this sense of fear do to you as you’re reading?
    12. Who do you connect with most in the novel and why?
    13. How does the state-by-state structure impact your reading process? Does it remind you of any other works of literature?
    14. The book emphasizes how slaves were treated as property and reduced to objects. Do you feel that you now have a better understanding of what slavery was like?
    15. Why do you think the author chose to portray a literal railroad? How did this aspect of magical realism impact your concept of how the real underground railroad worked?
    16. Does The Underground Railroad change the way you look at the history of America, especially in the time of slavery and abolitionism?
    SOME MORE:

    Discussion Questions:

    Why do you think the author chose a female for the main character?
    How did you feel about the historical facts being changed for the sake of the story here?
    How does fear affect people?
    What role does religion play in this novel?
    How is the Hob represented outside of the plantation?
    Do you think there was anywhere truly safe to escape to in these times?
    Discuss branding, literally and figuratively. How are the former slaves branded?
    In what way do blacks become equals to whites in this novel?
    What did you suspect happened to Mabel, Cora’s mother?
    Why is the character Homer important? Why do you think he stays with Ridgeway?
    Discuss some of the discussions that took place on the Valentine farm.
    Discuss the role of those who helped slaves escape via the underground railroad and the risks taken.
    Last edited by allegro; 12-18-2016 at 01:54 PM.

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    Alright, we gotta talk about these "chapters".

    9 Ajarry
    15 Georgia
    54 Ridgeway
    62 South Carolina
    94 Stevens
    100 North Carolina
    132 Ethel
    137 Tennessee
    158 Caesar
    163 Indiana
    198 Mabel
    203 The North
    There are short chapters (8 pages here, 5 pages there) sandwiched between large chapters (39 pages, 32 pages). Maybe it should be two-chapter groupings every time?

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    Quote Originally Posted by allegate View Post
    Alright, we gotta talk about these "chapters".

    There are short chapters (8 pages here, 5 pages there) sandwiched between large chapters (39 pages, 32 pages). Maybe it should be two-chapter groupings every time?
    Is that the page number beginning for each chapter, @allegate ?

    Yes, I agree two chapter groupings each time.

    How long do we want per grouping? A week? Five days?

    Is everybody ready to start discussing this THURSDAY evening?

    Or do we want to keep reading a few more chapters and then discuss?

    @elevenism , @Sarah K , @Louie_Cypher
    Last edited by allegro; 12-20-2016 at 08:26 PM.

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    I'm finishing up my LAST FINAL PROJECT tonight. So I plan on reading the shorter chapter tonight, and then reading the longer one at work tomorrow(and maybe Thursday evening).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarah K View Post
    I'm finishing up my LAST FINAL PROJECT tonight. So I plan on reading the shorter chapter tonight, and then reading the longer one at work tomorrow(and maybe Thursday evening).
    Since you have the school final stuff weighing on you, Sarah, and we have Christmas, how about if we read THREE chapters and we all discuss sometime next week AFTER CHRISTMAS IS OVER?

    Say, Tuesday, December 27th?

    So we'll all have the first three chapters done, discuss on 12/27?

    What say you all?

    This is a pretty hectic time.

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    @allegro , i can read it however.
    I'm easy.

    So whatever you, @Sarah K , @allegater and @Louie_Cypher wish to do is cool by me. I should have no problem doing the reading.

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    Quote Originally Posted by allegro View Post
    Is that the page number beginning for each chapter, @allegate?

    Yes, I agree two chapter groupings each time.

    How long do we want per grouping? A week? Five days?

    Is everybody ready to start discussing this THURSDAY evening?

    Or do we want to keep reading a few more chapters and then discuss?

    @elevenism, @Sarah K, @Louie_Cypher
    Yeah. I took the book off my kindle and converted it to PDF so I could read it at work and look busy.

    Almost finished with the second chapter, and as short as the 'every other chapter' chapters are three should be easy enough.

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