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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This is just about what you would expect in terms of a book with this title.  It is brutal, in the way that Toni Morrison's Beloved is brutal.  Nothing about it rings off kilter.  Nothing about people owning other people brings out the best in them.  They treat them poorly, either sadistically or assaultively, or it just takes a piece of their soul away.  There are no exceptions, no one escapes.  To think otherwise is to ignore the actual parameters of what slavery entails.  This book describes a girl on the path to escape, who gets on the underground railroad at a time when it is starting to be broken up, when the Fugitive Slave Act is forcing the issue.  Good people avoid trouble because they could lose everything, even their lives, if they help runaway slaves, and bounty hunters are getting more violent because in a lot of ways everyone can see that things are coming to a head.  This book dispassionately tells a story of mans brutality to man, and it helps in some ways to see why slavery is a legacy that is hard to escape, and that little men with almost nothing would feel powerful because they owned another man, and when that is taken away the bitterness runs deep.  This is not an anthem for hope.  It is a mirror being held up.  Look America, this is where you were not that long ago.  What is so great about that?

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