Train of Thought

Colson Whitehead is a writer of daring and provocative fiction and his subjects have ranged from dystopia to coming-of-age to zombies. The history of the “underground railroad” is fraught with a lot of misinformation but Mr. Whitehead ingeniously used one bit of it to write a Pulitzer Prize-winning best-seller. The alternative fact in “The Underground Railroad,” his courageous novel about a young woman’s harrowing journey out of slavery, is an actual railroad under the ground. The author is a fan of science fiction and horror which informs his take on historical subjects, and he is keenly aware of the outsized significance of race in the this country and the history of slavery here and around the world. Mr. Whitehead spent a few days in residency for UCSB Arts & Lectures, giving a lecture on campus, meeting with and fielding questions from students at San Marcos High School and an intimate group of local writers and a larger group of book club members at the public library. His insights about the the mechanics and promotional aspects of writing as well as the subject of the real underground railroad and the current state of race relations were shared with generosity and good humor, and all who attended were amply rewarded. He announced that the questions he got form the San Marcos students were the best he’s encountered from a high school Q & A.