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Memphis Reads Selects “The Underground Railroad” as 2018 Community Book

MEMPHIS — Memphis Reads has selected the The Underground Railroad by New York writer Colson Whitehead as its 2018 community read book. The Underground Railroad is an alternate history about two slaves in the 1800s, Cora and Caesar, who flee their Georgia plantations by following the Underground Railroad—which, in Whitehead’s ingenious conception, is no mere metaphor: engineers and conductors operate a secret network of actual tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil.

The Underground Railroad won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction, the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence. Longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize, the novel was both a #1 New York Times bestseller and a 2016 selection on Oprah’s Book Club list.

Whitehead is also the author of the novels The Noble Hustle, Zone One, Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt, and one collection of essays, The Colossus of New York. Colson Whitehead’s reviews, essays, and fiction have appeared in a number of publications, including the New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Harper’s, and Granta.

Whitehead has received a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, the Dos Passos Prize, a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for John Henry Days. He has taught at the University of Houston, Columbia University, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, New York University, Princeton University, Wesleyan University, and been a Writer-in-Residence at Vassar College, the University of Richmond and the University of Wyoming.

“We are so honored to celebrate and study this important and eminently timely work of literature,” said Karen Golightly, director of Memphis Reads and an associate professor at Christian Brothers University (CBU). “Colson’s story is a profoundly prescient and moving depiction of the historical American south that, while fictionalized, contains innumerable lessons for us right here and right now. We’re looking forward to his visits to Memphis and encourage everyone throughout our community to join us on this journey.”

Whitehead will speak at CBU on September 5 in the University Theater at 7:00 p.m., with a book signing to follow. On September 6, he will hold a community conversation at Rhodes College in the McNeil Concert Hall at 6:00 p.m., with a book signing also following this event.

Other events in conjunction with Memphis Reads will be held throughout August and September and are listed at

Memphis Reads 2018 is supported by Presenting Sponsor International Paper, and is funded, in part, by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Tennessee Arts Commission. Other sponsors are Artworks and Follett.

Memphis Reads partners include Christian Brothers University, Rhodes College, Southwest Tennessee Community College, University of Memphis, Novel, Shelby County Schools, Memphis Public Libraries, the National Civil Rights Museum, Friends of the Library, City of Memphis Parks & Neighborhoods Division, Facing History and Ourselves, Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium, and Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum.

 For more information about Memphis Reads or any of its events, visit or contact Karen Golightly at To learn more about author Colson Whitehead, please visit

Posted by Cory Dugan at 3:50 PM