The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

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The Underground RailroadKindle Edition, 306 pages

Published: August 2, 2016 by Doubleday

Literary Awards: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2017), National Book Award for Fiction (2016), The Rooster – The Morning News Tournament of Books (2017), Kirkus Prize Nominee for Fiction (2016), Goodreads Choice Award for Historical Fiction (2016)

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Whitehead’s dark, brilliant novel takes us through the looking glass into an alternative version of the pre-Civil War South — a pastiche of our country’s brutal history of racism, before and after slavery. It is not for the faint of heart. I talked to several people on Facebook who suffered nightmares while reading it. This is, oddly enough, a fitting tribute to this book, which takes you to dark places while enticing you with the beauty of its language.
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March by Geraldine Brooks

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March

Paperback, 280 pages

Published: January 31, 2006 by Penguin (1st published October 10, 2004)

Literary Awards: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2006)

 

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March re-imagines the absent father in Little Women, who went to war and returned to his wife and daughters in a memorable Christmas scene. Although Geraldine Brooks adopted the elegant, rather formal language of the period, in a novel reflecting many of the moral values in Louisa May Alcott’s most famous classic, March is not a children’s story. It is a war story, gorgeous and eloquent but also raw and brutal.

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Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

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Fingersmithcover

 

Hardcover, 511 pages

Published: February 4, 2002 by Riverhead Books

Setting: London

Literary Awards: Man Booker Prize Nominee for Shortlist (2002), Stonewall Book Award Nominee for Literature (2003), Orange Prize Nominee for Fiction Shortlist (2002), Crime Writers’ Association Ellis Peters Historical Award (2002), Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction (2003), Kono Mystery ga Sugoi for Best Translated Mystery Novel of the Year in Japan (2005)

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Jude (1996)

Directed by: Michael Winterbottomjude-movie-poster-1996-1010472794

Written by: Hossein Amini, based on Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

In her ongoing quest to expose me to the most brutally depressing movies possible, a few weeks after persuading me to watch Tyrannosaur, my daughter Sarah introduced me to Jude. This adaptation of Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy features memorable performances by Christopher Eccleston (before he got a Tardis), Rachel Griffiths (Hilary and Jackie), and Kate Winslet.

Raised by his aunt in Victorian England, young Jude Fawley dreams of becoming a university scholar. He’s inspired by his teacher, who tells him if he studies hard, he can shape his own future

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Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

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MudboundHardcover, 328 pages

Published: Published March 4, 2008 by Algonquin Books (1st published January 1, 2008)

Setting: Mississippi, 1940s

Literary Awards:  ALA Alex Award (2009), NAIBA Book of the Year for Fiction (2008), PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction for Fiction (2006)

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Henry and I dug the hole seven feet deep . Any shallower and the corpse was liable to come rising up during the next big flood: Howdy boys! Remember me?

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What I Was by Meg Rosoff

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Paperback, 224 pages

Published: December 30, 2008 by Plume (1st published August 30, 2007)

Setting: England

Literary Awards: Goldener Lufti (2010), Carnegie Medal in Literature Shortlist (2008)

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As a very old man, Hilary finds that his mind drifts freely throughout his life, without an anchor. He he reflects on the year he was sixteen, when he first experienced love.

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