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In Conversation With Colson Whitehead & Ben Winters

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Courtesy Sara Plourde, NHPR
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Colson Whitehead and Ben Winters joined Virginia in front of a live audience for the "In the Spotlight" series at the Capital Center for the Arts in Concord, New Hampshire, presented in partnership with Gibson's Bookstore. Today, we're listening to that conversation with two writers who made the imaginative leap from what we already know happened, to what could have happened.

In his National Book Award nominated novel The Underground Railroad, Whitehead turns the metaphor of the title into an actual underground network of trains. That premise became the mythic journey of a teenaged slave named Cora who escapes a Georgia plantation and boards a subterranean train northward.

Around the same time Whitehead was working on his book, Ben Winters writing Underground Airlinesthe civil war as we know it was never fought. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated before his inauguration, and slavery continues in the present - an  industrialized, corporate-owned economic powerhouse operating in four southern states under protection of the Constitution.

Warning here, The Underground Railroad is unsparing in depicting brutality and sexual violence against slaves. The reading in this show is no different and parents and sensitive listeners are advised that parts of this broadcast contain graphic language. 

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