Whitehead’s boldest stroke is to make the historical underground railroad a literal secret railway lineby Sameer Rahim / August 15, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
by Colson Whitehead (Fleet, £7.99)
In a 2009 article for the New York Times, Colson Whitehead cutely described the kind of novel that he, as an African-American, was expected to write: “The Southern Novel of Black Misery,” where you “slip on your sepia-tinted goggles and investigate the legacy of slavery that still reverberates to this day.” So it was a surprise to many when Whitehead, best known for his social satire of the black middle-class environment in which he grew up and also for writing a zombie novel, produced The Underground Railroad, which follows Cora, an escaped slave, making her way to freedom in 1850s America. A cascade of honours have followed: the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, the Oprah interview. It is now a favourite for the Man Booker.