Tilburg International Club

Home » Activities » Book Club » Book Review: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Book Review: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

OUR MISSION

tíc is a non-profit association that provides social and educational activities for internationals living in and around Tilburg. Read more About tíc.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

book-club-logo

by Anne van Oorschot

Our book club met to discuss our latest book, Pulitzer prize winner The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead. It is the story African American slave, Cora, and her flight from slavery on a plantation in Georgia. While most people are familiar with descriptions of slavery on cotton plantations in America in the early 1800s, the author gave a good picture of the horrible conditions and ruthless behavior inflicted on the slaves. Running away should have been an attractive option…but the horrible death you would suffer if you were caught and brought back served as an effective deterrent for most. Caesar, a recent and less battered down addition to her plantation’s slave population, talks Cora into fleeing to a contact of his with ties to the Underground Railroad. The two set off and are initially successful, the book following their escape route through states to the north.

The first surprise was that the Underground Railroad was an actual railroad – built in tunnels under the ground. Why had the author chosen to portray it so literally? If you hear aboutthe Underground Railroad as a child, you do imagine it to be a regular railroad; did Whitehead decide to remain true to his initial image of the secret network of individuals who helped slaves escape? Another aspect that I found surprising was the big difference in attitudes and laws in the different states Cora went through. While there were laws in place to “lift up” colored citizens in South Carolina (with somewhat dubious motives), North Carolina wanted to rid their state of ALL blacks and made entertainment out of hanging any they found + those residents who helped them. After several near misses, things seemed to end well when Cora arrived at the Valentine farm in Indiana, a community made up entirely of colored residents, and found her place in the group. As the small community grew, their white neighbors became increasingly hostile and decided to take matters into their own hands. It remains shocking, the things people feel justified in doing to others who are “different”.

The opinions of our group about the book were quite varied: some found it too slow paced with a confusing story line, others felt it moved along at a good pace and found the story line clear. I really liked the book and found the language used beautiful – such clear images and spot on descriptions. My favorite impression was from a section mid-book that was a bit random to the main story line. A young man is studying medicine at a small Boston college and supplements his income by going on raids to find cadavers that students can practice on. This involves going out in the dead of night and stealing the bodies from new graves. Since white graves were often guarded by family members to prevent removal of the body, that was generally not the case for black graves. Thus, more and more medical cadavers were blacks: “Yet when his classmates put their blades to a colored cadaver, they did more for the cause of colored advancement than the most high-minded abolitionist. In death the negro became a human being. Only then was he the white man’s equal.”

(I was excited to hear that Colson Whitehead would be giving a talk about the book in Amsterdam at the John Adams Institute. Though the tickets were sold out, my daughter managed to find 2, so I’ll be going on December 6th . Come to the next book discussion to hear what I learned… ) We ended our evening with a book exchange and several members brought good books they had already read to share with the group. There were a few of our past reads among the books – good books, but not ones in line to be re-read. Especially nice for new members of our group, but I went away with a couple of books as well.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Upcoming Events

  • Dutch Conversation Group 13 November 2019
  • Expat workshop- housing in Tilburg 14 November 2019 LocHal Bibliotheek, Burgemeester Brokxlaan 1000, 5041 SG Tilburg
  • tícMovie Night 22 November 2019 Cinecitta, Willem II Straat 29, 5038 BA Tilburg, Netherlands
  • Worstenbrood Workshop 26 November 2019
  • Book Club: The 100 Secret Senses 2 December 2019
  • Tic event Jess 5 December 2019 at 8:30 pm – 11:00 pm Rentmeesterhof 26n5046 MZ Tilburg, Brabant-SeptentrionalnPays-Bas

See our latest on Instagram!

Dear all! You are welcome to join tíc for a "Brabant’s worstenbroodjes"/ "Sausage roll" / "Pigs-in-a-blanket" workshop in the very beautiful Brabant’s bakery, de smaeck van Brabant. 🌭 🔸🔶🔸 Worstenbroodjes are a local delicacy of Brabant in which Tilburg is located. They are great for the cold winter nights. 🔸🔶🔸 The workshop will include the following: ▪️Tea, coffee or a fizzy drink (no alcohol) ▪️Detailed, hands-on explanation for making perfect Brabant’s worstenbroodjes ▪️Appelflap while waiting for the sausage rolls to bake ▪️10 worstenbroodjes to take home! *** 📅Date: Tuesday 26th November ⌚️Time: 18:30 - 21:00 (6:30 - 9:00 p.m.) (90 min. standing while baking) 📍Location: de smaeck van Brabant, Kerkstraat 8, 5056 AC Berkel-Enschot ❗️Register by: 21 November - link on our bio 💶Members: €20 per person (Normal price is €30 euro per person) 💶Guest: €30 per person (READ about how €5,00 can be pro-rated towards your membership fee) *** There are only 12 spaces!! First come first served. *** Disclaimer: If you cancel after the RSVP date and your place remains unfilled you will be required to pay the full amount *** Best Regards, The tíc event team #tilburger #tilburgismooi #tilburginternational #tilburginternationalclub #workshop #worstenbroodjes
This Saturday the Halloween Pumpkin Carving party is happening between 12:00 - 15:00 pm and we would love to see you there! 🎃 There will be a little tutorial on how to participate in this Halloween tradition and then the party will get rolling as we hang out, enjoying Halloween themed cupcakes🧁, and let our creativeness flow! Details are in the event on Facebook and below, and don't forget, this event is for all ages and guests are welcome (see guest price). 👻👻 Please register asap so that we know how many pumpkins to buy Date: Saturday, 26 Oct 2019 Time: 12:00 - 15:00 pm (12:00 - 3:00 pm) Location: Beneluxlaan 74, 5042 WS Tilburg ('t Sant) Register: On our website by 23 Oct 2019 (link on our bio) Member Cost: €6 pp, free for kids Guests: €10 pp, free for kids (READ about how this can be pro-rated towards your membership fee)
Ready for our book discussion of tonight! 📑 #Repost @yolonda_nl_usa • • • • • • Tilburg, Netherlands Book Club with @tilburg_international_club #becoming #michelleobama #expatlife #internationals #keepreading #womenempowerment
#Repost @tilburg_international_club • • • • • • Dear tic members and guests: . The chilly rain ☔ is here and so begins the season of all things autumn 🍂, pumpkin🎃, and Halloween 👻. We invite you to come carve Halloween jack-o-lanterns with us. Show off your artistic talent or simply enjoy a warm drink and good company during this sweater weather season ☕. . Pumpkin carving is enjoyed by people of all ages- adults and kids alike. The carving tools are specially rounded, so no sharp edges for little hands 👌🏻👌🏽👌🏿. And for the tiniest kids, we also have a pumpkin coloring activity 🎨. . We’ll bring the pumpkins and carving tools, all you have to do is show up. If pumpkin carving is new for you, we’ll show you how it’s done. . 📅Date: Saturday, 26 Oct 2019 🕛Time: 12:00-15:00 pm (12 - 3:00 pm) 📍Location:  Beneluxlaan 74, 5042 WS Tilburg (Community Center 't Zant) 📧Register: via email by 22 Oct 2019 💲Member Cost: €6 pp, free for kids 💲💲Guests: €10 pp, free for kids (READ about how this can be pro-rated towards your membership fee) . With Spooky Regards, tic Events Team . #expat #expatlife #dutchculture #holland #netherlands #visitnetherlands #visitholland #thenetherlands . . . . . . . . . . . #multicultural #tilburginternationalclub #tilburginternational #tilburg #tilburgdrinkt #tilburgismooi #visittilburg #ditistilburg #brabant #noordbrabant #visitbrabant #tilburgcom #inbrabant #halloween #pumpkincarving

News Archives

%d bloggers like this: