The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead has won the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction! It deserves it - and all the other many awards it's received. The Underground Railroad is a wonderful story; moreover, it's an important one. 

"The first time Caesar approached Cora about running north, she said no."

Cora, a third-generation slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia, takes her life in her hands and runs North on the underground railroad. Chased by a ruthless slave catcher with a grudge, as well as by the memories of a mother whose own race to freedom left her a vulnerable ten-year-old stray, scarred in body and soul, Cora struggles to find true freedom. With a dash of magical realism, including a literal subterranean train system, and featuring caricatured/fantastical versions of several states, Whitehead's novel depicts a stark and graphic picture of slavery and racism in pre-Civil War America. At the same time, it brings into focus our modern systemic problems, uncovering the foundational national sins on which so much of our country was built.

Not an overly long book, it nevertheless took me a long while to read; it is not an easy book to get through, emotionally. While the story is engaging, the wording gorgeous, and the characters real and relatable, the story is not a light one, and must be approached seriously. Although I'm sure there are those who will object to the graphic violence and language, I believe it would make an excellent addition to high school curriculum.


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