Since obtaining my NYC library card, I’ve renewed my passion for reading. My first check-out was The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. This book, along with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, should be required reading for all Americans. As a Southern-born, blond-haired, hazel-eyed white girl raised in an upper-middle class home, I have enjoyed the life of privilege and insulation. Policemen smile and say “hello” to me when I walk down the street, immigration officials waive me straight through with little inspection, and employers are happy to see me when I show up for an interview. These books help me feel the plight of those who have faced humiliation and persecution in a way that hopefully guides my behavior in both treatment of and advocacy for my fellow humans.
The Underground Railroad follows the life and history of Cora, a third generation slave in Georgia – chronicling her childhood on the plantation, escape through the swamp, and life on the run. Her courage and innate sense of right put her life in danger when she stands up for a fellow slave who made a minuscule mistake in the presence of the master. This action, along with the encouragement of her fellow defector, motivates her to seek freedom. Her journey is filled with triumphs and terror, making it difficult to set the book down until you get to the last page and discover her fate.
Thank you, Colson Whitehead, for making me feel the pain and grief of the slaves and the shame of the slave owners.