A book, a month of books

I am fortunate to be part of today’s crew at

by Colson Whitehead, whose many honors for
bringing the main character, Cora, and her mother,
Mabel, to us, include
the 2016 National Book Award.

“The world may be mean, but people
don’t have to be, not if they refuse.”

– Mabel The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead

I cried through much of it, especially at the end.
The author combines history and his own magical realism.
With those tools, he giftedly presents powerful suggestions
about the physical and emotional torture of the
enslavement business that are visceral and I flinched.
It is a swift thing to convict in our minds the U.S. businessmen and women who perpetuated imprisonment and brutality upon children, women and men.
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD also delivers us to others
whose complicity must also be remembered and discussed.
The author’s ultimate gift is a fiercely independent young
woman whose spirit will not be squelched. At an imagined
museum in South Carolina, a temporarily-free Cora plays
parts in three different time-period dioramas of black history.
It gave me chills to see her assignment. I made an air-first
as Cora figures out how to get back at gawking white visitors.

Teachers should read this novel; it will be good to see how
it informs both history and literature classes,
for more mature students.
It may also be widely available on television.

This is a 2016 NPR interview with Colson Whitehead

. . .
Although any day of the year is an important time
to learn about more
titles on the black experience, here are some links,
in celebration of
February, Black History Month.

The Brown Bookshelf

Debut author Leah Henderson

I enjoyed meeting author Leah Henderson at a workshop
and think you will want to follow this talented
thinker as her writing career expands.

Poetry for Children
This site, above, created by children’s literature/poetry specialist Sylvia Vardell,
who I hope to meed some day as many of you have, features a link
to SoundCloud posts of poems on various aspects of the black experience. the-underground-railroad<


21 responses to “A book, a month of books”

  1. I didn’t know this book, Jan; thanks so much for sharing it with us. Not surprised to see other PFers are reading/listening to it. Thanks for the links, too, and for your keen mind and tender heart.


  2. I am listening to it now, and I agree that it should be a MUST READ. Cora is in Valentine, Indiana. (Thanks for no spoilers!) I know and say over and over that Black History is AMERICAN history, and it is so amazing how much of that history Whitehead packs into this book. It is hard to read/listen to. We have such a shameful history, and here we go again…you’d think our nation would eventually evolve into a more positive story. Sadly, not yet.


    • Mary Lee,
      I am SO appreciative that you are in a classroom, guiding young minds.
      Thank you for these important words. I had a spoiler written before I realized what I’d done! But then in editing I went back & zapped it.
      What a coincidence about this time of year that you are reading it & the town name.
      Weekend wonderment to you.


  3. Wonderful information, Jan. Thank you! I’m so very excited for Leah. Can’t wait to see this book and many more do well in the world. I’m headed off to the NPR link now! YOu are a wealth of information and book love.


  4. What a powerful story of strength and resilience in the face of unimaginable cruelty. A part of our shared human history that must be explored – aren’t we lucky to have such talented wordsmiths to help walk us through the past, and see how it still impacts the present.


    • Jane, hello.

      I feel Colson Whitehead took a great leap with his
      imaginative rendering of this part of our collective history.
      I look forward to his next projects.
      In agreement with you – today’s trials are rooted in the past.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, I didn’t know they’re making a TV show out of Colson Whitehead’s book. Very cool! And I hopped over and read Leah’s wonderful post.Thank you for the link. I remember talking to her at Highlights about traveling, and I knew she had a book coming out this year. Can’t wait to read it.


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