Gibson’s Bookstore, Capitol Center for the Arts, and New Hampshire Public Radio are pleased to present Colson Whitehead (The Intuitionist) and Ben Winters (The Last Policeman) on stage in conversation at the Spotlight Cafe at Capitol Center for the Arts! Their discussion, lead by Gracie Award-winning Virginia Prescott, host of NHPR’s Word of Mouth, will center around their new books, which share a common theme of slavery and the Underground Railroad.
From prize-winning, bestselling author Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad, a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave’s adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Our protagonist Cora’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
Like the protagonist of “Gulliver’s Travels,” Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. “The Underground Railroad” is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
From Edgar award-winning author Ben Winters, Underground Airlines. It is the present-day, and the world is as we know it: smartphones, social networking and Happy Meals. Save for one thing: the Civil War never occurred. A gifted young black man calling himself Victor has struck a bargain with federal law enforcement, working as a bounty hunter for the US Marshall Service. He’s got plenty of work. In this version of America, slavery continues in four states called “the Hard Four.” On the trail of a runaway known as Jackdaw, Victor arrives in Indianapolis knowing that something isn’t right–with the case file, with his work, and with the country itself.
Virginia Prescott is the Gracie Award-winning host of Word of Mouth and the 10-Minute Writers Workshop Podcast from NHPR. Before returning to her home state of New Hampshire, Virginia was a producer and editor for NPR’s On Point and Here & Now programs, and a director at WNYC in New York. Throughout her career, she’s trained journalists and helped develop independent community radio in post-conflict zones from the Balkans to West Africa. She was a member of the Peabody Award-Winning team at Jazz from Lincoln Center, an Edward R. Murrow Award-winner at WNYC, and a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University. She loves working in radio but regrets that so many good outfits go unnoticed.
Photo of Colson Whitehead by Madeleine Whitehead
Photo of Ben Winters by Nicola Goode