ben h winter

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Books I’m reading this October (Halloween theme)!

The books standing up are books I’m definitely reading, the one in a pile on the right are books I’m hoping to get to if I have the time (and don’t end up in a reading slump, like the past few months).

Go check out the summaries for these books and if you find any you like, add them to your to-read list for this month! :)

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(via I Don’t Want to Watch Slavery Fan Fiction - The New York Times)

Many fiction writers have tried, to varying degrees of success, to reimagine slavery or create alternate histories where the Civil War never happened or never ended, or the Confederacy won.

Most recently, in the novel “Underground Airlines,” Ben H. Winters created an alternate history where slavery still exists in four states, there was no Civil War and segregation is the order of the day throughout the United States. I suppose it’s an interesting premise, but as is often the case with interesting premises, at what cost?

It has been more than 150 years since the Civil War ended, but it often feels like some people are still living in the antebellum era. In parts of the United States and, as evidenced by Donald Trump’s visit to Poland recently, the world, the Confederate flag is still proudly flown. This month, Ku Klux Klansmen marched in Charlottesville, Va., to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from a city park. They were not the first nor will they be the last to resist acknowledging that the Confederacy lost the Civil War.

At the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, in May, a noose was found in an exhibition about segregation. That was one of three nooses found in the city within a few months. There was a noose found hanging from a tree in Philadelphia. There have also been noose-related incidents in Maryland, Louisiana, North Carolina and Florida — quiet, insidious acts of violence, reminders that racial hatred is alive and well.

Each time I see a re-imagining of the Civil War that largely replicates what actually happened, I wonder why people are expending the energy to imagine that slavery continues to thrive when we are still dealing with the vestiges of slavery in very tangible ways. Those vestiges are visible in incarceration rates for black people, a wildly segregated country, disparities in pay and mortality rates and the ever-precarious nature of black life in a world where it can often seem as if police officers take those lives with impunity.

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Ben H. Winters’ latest novel, Underground Airlines, mashes together elements of the thriller with speculative history. Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan says that however you classify Underground Airlines, it’s indisputably a winner:

“Author Ben H. Winters has imagined not only a disturbing-but-plausible alternate reality for the United States but, as a white author, he’s also imagined himself into the body and consciousness of his black narrator, Victor. These days, in particular, that’s a controversial move, but the exceptional novel that results seems to me to be justification enough for such an act of creative crossing.”

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Ben H. Winters’ new Underground Airlines paints a nightmarishly realistic picture of a modern-day America where the Civil War never happened and slavery is still legal in four Southern states. Critic Bethanne Patrick says Winters gets a little too tangled up in noir tropes, but readers will still get caught up in the world he creates. She also recommends reading Octavia Butler’s classic Kindred as a companion piece.

Check out her full review here.

– Petra