In 2017, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race was the Rutgers Reads selection. Author Margot Lee Shetterly visited Rutgers University–Camden to meet with students and to deliver a public lecture to a packed theater on Sept. 27, 2017. View photos from the event.
The 2018 selection for Rutgers Reads is The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. A New York Times bestseller, The Underground Railroad won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, the National Book Award, and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. As described by publisher Penguin Random House, the book follows Cora, a young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia who joins Caesar, a slave who has recently arrived from Virginia, on the Underground Railroad. In Colson Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor: engineers and conductors operate a secret network of actual tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora embarks on a harrowing flight from one state to the next, encountering, like Gulliver, strange-yet-familiar iterations of her own world at each stop. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the terrors of the antebellum era, he weaves in the saga of our nation, from the brutal abduction of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is both the gripping tale of one woman’s will to escape the horrors of bondage—and a powerful meditation on the history we all share.