Favourite Book(s) #19 – The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Underground RailroadI don’t subscribe to a huge amount of YouTube video’s but one that I always watch is, Christopher Allen who at some point last year recommended this book, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. There are a number of video’s on YouTube reviewing this book and there are several interviews with the author.

The cynic in me, and I have said this numerous times about a number of different books, that those that tend to be winners of various awards are not, in my view great. This is my exception.

I watched Christopher talk about the book and immediately added it to my Amazon wish list for the paperback version to be available in the UK. I have searched Christopher’s channel and cannot find exactly where he mentioned it, but the video below is his 2017 favourites and you can hear what he says at about it at 10:43 in if you don’t want to watch the entire video. If I can find the initial review from Christopher I will leave the link below.

This was a wonderfully written book is written as a fictional account. There are some scathing reviews on Amazon and a subject such as this was always going to have a mix of reviews. For me it made me think and consider the subject further.

I remember a news report here in England, when the Sky News US Correspondent spoke with former President Obama as he wished an elderly black lady happy birthday. She was so over joyed not only that the president was talking to her, but that he was black and just how far the US had come. The final comment was poignant, “but it still is not far enough“.

The one thing about history is that we cannot forget what has happened, but we should be able to learn from those events, sadly on occasions, we do not appear to do so.

Have any of you read the book? If you have, do leave a comment about your thoughts on the book.

About Julie Goucher

Genealogist, Author, Presenter, native Guildfordian, avid note taker and journal writer. Lover of Books, Stationery & History; Surnames, Butcher & Orlando One-Name Studies. Pharos Tutor for all One-Name Studies/surname courses as well as Researching Ancestors from Continental Europe.
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5 Responses to Favourite Book(s) #19 – The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

  1. Lisa Hill says:

    Any book involving slavery is always going to be contentious in the US, so I’m not surprised that there are horrid reviews at Amazon. But I liked it, very much, and I think that reading it from outside the US is a different experience because we don’t share their history. It’s not so *personal* for us.
    I talked about this with The Spouse just the other day: what makes it so difficult for African-Americans descended from slaves, is that with rare exceptions they can never know who they are, or even which African country they were from. They do not even know their original family names; the surnames they carry are the names of the families that owned their ancestors. They can’t trace their family history which for many people is a crucial part of identity. So this is a wrong that can never be righted.
    FWIW here is my review:

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is tragic that the links to those ancestors is so difficult and in some cases painful. I have a number of friends whose ancestors were enslaved and by coincidence one did this webinar this week (free to those without a subscription for a limited time) – https://familytreewebinars.com/download.php?webinar_id=731 There are DNA projects which does open up an avenue of research and hope. I will read your review and leave a comment Lisa.


      • Lisa Hill says:

        Ah yes, I never thought of that: DNA could be helpful in some cases. I’ll explore that link, thanks:)


      • Lisa Hill says:

        Wow, I’ve listened to that link now, and that webinar is amazing… one thing I’m struggling with is that the small amount of research I’ve done was all entered onto The Master Genealogist which is not being maintained any more and some features (e.g. search) just don’t work any more. I had planned to pass it on to my niece who’s interested in family history, but from what I can tell from help pages I’ve read, the process of exporting it is very complicated since it can’t be uploaded to the program software. This has made me distrust online software, and I’m now looking at redoing card files, which will be a mammoth job…

        Liked by 1 person

        • I know several people who used the Master Genealogist and sadly it is no longer being supported. I use RootsMagic software and have since the beginning – actually before the beginning! I originally used a programme called Family Origins and when the developer stopped at version 10 (I had been with them since version 4) he went on to create Roots Magic which I do recommend. You should be able to, from Master Genealogist export the files as a GEDCOM and then upload into whatever programme you decide to move to.

          I don’t keep my material online in my software, I download from the Cloud RootsMagic and was able to import the GEDCOM into that. I can see your distrust of software, but the issue with using card files means that to get the material onto a website for example would involve a lot of typing – i began my research before the internet! so image how much paper I have. I am working on my website now and achieve this by exporting the GEDCOM from Roots Magic and the uploading the same GEDCOM into a piece of software called TNG which allows a great clean approach. My site is a work in progress and sits on the Guild of One-Name Studies servers as a members benefit, but an excellent site showing how an GEDCOM and TNG work in harmony is the Howes One-Name Study http://www.howesfamilies.com (that is created using Family Historian and then a GEDCOM exported and uploaded to TNG) – Paul’s site is fantastic!

          Roots Magic does have a free download https://www.rootsmagic.com/ (as most of the software companies do) I do not get any personal gain from recommending them – nothing more than a happy user!

          Any problems or questions, shout out Lisa!


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