50 books to read before you die discussion

The Underground Railroad
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message 1: by Christine (new)

Christine This is the choice for the 'open nominations' group read this month. I have never read this so I am looking forward to the comments from those of you who do this month.


Buck (spectru) I started reading this one this morning. It seems good so far.


message 3: by Christine (new)

Christine Is anyone else reading this besides Buck?


Buck (spectru) I am nearing halfway. There are things happening in South Carolina that I had never heard of before: The US government is buying slaves at auction and at estates sales and collecting them in communities, housing them in dormitories, educating them, giving them jobs. I know of the syphilis study that was done in Tuskegee Alabama after WWII, wherein they gave black men placebos instead of treatment to see how the disease progressed. I had no idea that they had done this in South Carolina before the Civil War.

Also, the Underground Railroad is, at least partly, an actual railroad in tunnels.

I had thought this to be an historical novel, but I think maybe it is more fantastical.


Stacie | 3 comments I am starting it now, just downloaded it from the library.


message 6: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Noelani I'm going to have to read this one.


message 7: by Paula (last edited Aug 16, 2018 10:41AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paula Buck wrote: "I am nearing halfway. There are things happening in South Carolina that I had never heard of before: The US government is buying slaves at auction and at estates sales and collecting them in commun..."

You're correct, Buck, the "railroad" did exist in some tunnels. It mostly operated above ground, however, with families hiding escaped slaves at safe houses in hidden rooms not unlike people were hidden during the holocaust. The gabled roof/ceiling of a house was one of these hiding spots used.

"The Underground Railroad" was a selection in my Goodreads group the year it was a finalist for the Man Booker Award. The group reads the current national and international Man Booker finalists and (past and present) winners. It won the Pulitzer the year it was eligible. The story makes some twists and turns, finally getting back to one of the main character's resolution of her crisis--or the closest it can be. Although it is fantastical, the underground railroad was a real thing during the civil unrest of the 1850s and 1860s in America.

In my fair city, we have the nation's largest statue depicting the underground railroad. It features Erastus Hussey and Harriet Tubman, who were instrumental in leading many slaves to freedom. (If you take a look at my profile page, I've posted one view of it. Also, here is a link to some general info. https://www.michigan.org/property/und...) The "Railroad" ran through my city and Sojourner Truth is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery here. (More trivia, for your reading pleasure!)

I didn't know about the tests which you mention, though I don't doubt for a minute that men are capable of doing such things to other humans. It appears you've done some research. Interesting topic, isn't it? Happy Reading.


Buck (spectru) The shameful “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male" began in 1932 and went on for 40 years.
https://www.cdc.gov/tuskegee/timeline...

My conception of the underground railroad is that it's name was metaphorical. It was a system of smuggling escaped slaves out of the south and into the free states. While some of it might have been actual railroads, they would certainly not have been run by blacks. In coastal Georgia, tunneling underground is not feasible. The soil is sandy with high groundwater. Tunnels, without extraordinary engineering and construction, would simply have collapsed.

I grew up in the Jim Crow south, where the Confederacy and the antebellum society were iconic. I was never aware of different laws in the different states that made the institution of slavery so different. There would have been absolutely no incentive for escaped slaves from Georgia to want to remain in South Carolina, as in this book. These things are inventions for the fiction of the story.

The horrors of plantation life for a slave and the patrollers and runaway hunters are real enough, but I had a problem with the overall presentation of the underground railroad, from an historic perspective. Nevertheless, I've adjusted, as I move along in the second half of the book.

I wasn't aware this book won the Pulitzer, a prestigious award indeed.


Buck (spectru) Wikipedia describes The Underground Railroad as an alternate history novel.


message 10: by Buck (new) - rated it 3 stars

Buck (spectru) Done.

It was alright. The style of prose is fairly conventional, not particularly noteworthy. I was initially confounded, even disappointed, that it was not truly an historical novel, rather than an alternate history. In terms of the conditions of slavery from the point of view of slaves it felt authentic. It is a good story, but in terms of the underground railroad itself, as well as the different slave laws in the different states, it seemed contrived.

The Underground Railroad won or was nominated for numerous literary awards, including the Arthur C. Clark Award for science fiction. I wish I had known it was science fiction before I started it; I think I might have enjoyed it more.


message 11: by Lo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lo | 6 comments I find it interesting that it's been described as sci-fi; I never thought this at all when I was reading it. However, I do agree that some of the ideas and events do seem to be presented as historical to varying degrees which did get in the way of my enjoying it.


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