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The warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

The warmth of Other Suns (edition 2010)

by Isabel Wilkerson

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1,579744,624 (4.38)279
Title:The warmth of Other Suns
Authors:Isabel Wilkerson
Info:Random House (2010), Edition: Advance Reader's Copy, Paperback
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:Great Migration, United States, history, Jim Crow, South, 20th century, African Americans, DeacsRead, book club, ebook, NOOK, read.2012

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The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson


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Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
4.5 stars

Primarily between 1915 and 1970, “coloured” people migrated in masses from the American South to the North. However, even the North wasn't all it was cracked up to be. This book looks at the overall migration, but it also focuses on three specific people who migrated.

Ida Mae, in the late 1930s, moved from Mississippi to Milwaukee, then Chicago; George, in the 1940s, moved from Florida to New York; Robert, in the 1950s, moved from Louisiana to California. All three moved to escape the Jim Crow laws and the treatment of coloured people in the south.

This was really good. I did find it helpful (especially towards the start of the book) that the author usually did a quick little recap for each of our main characters as she went back and forth between them. She also interspersed more general information about the mass migration, as well as adding in smaller anecdotes of other migrants and their stories. Wow, she did a lot of research for this book, not only “book” research, but lots of interviews, not only with the three main people she focused on (as well and their families, friends, and acquaintances), but also initial interviews with over 1000 people to decide who to mainly focus on. Very impressive! ( )
  LibraryCin | Jul 12, 2015 |
A compelling, superbly written history of the Great Migration of blacks from the Jim Crow South to northern and west coast cities, an exodus that spanned many decades. Wilkerson masterfully weaves intimate, personal stories into a sweeping, big picture narrative. ( )
  Sullywriter | May 22, 2015 |
Stories of the great wave of African-American internal migration, South to North, tracking a few specific stories—a woman who moved to Chicago and got factory work, a man who moved to New York and worked the trains, and a man who moved to Los Angeles and finally found the kind of work as a doctor he sought. Through them, Wilkerson tracks the incredible bravery required to escape, often under circumstances where blacks could be killed for trying to leave and killed for any reason if they stayed. She recounts the hard work and tradeoffs the migrants made, as well as the racist barriers they left and the ones they encountered in the North—they often got the lowest pay and the worst jobs, which were still often better than the options in the South, but left them with little opportunity to supervise their children. Among her points is that the migrants, like many immigrants, were often highly ambitious and risk-taking and that they were wrongly blamed for causing social problems in Northern cities, whereas they had higher education, employment, and marriage rates than native-born Northern African-Americans. Racism was the problem, and they found partial solutions, as well as individual triumph and tragedy, by leaving the South (and often longing for many of its traditions for decades afterwards). ( )
  rivkat | May 3, 2015 |
Fabulous and touching ( )
  ibkennedy | Mar 22, 2015 |
I had been meaning to read this book ever since it came out, but the national uprising against police brutality following the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson pushed me to finally pick it up. I felt it was necessary to improve my understanding of the history of structural racism in the US.

Isabel Wilkerson's book covers several decades and a huge geography but she keeps her discussion focused on the experience of her three protagonists who left the South because of their particular experiences under Jim Crow and the conditions they faced in the north (or, in the case of Robert Foster, California).

Wilkerson writes in the book's introduction about what might be "the biggest underreported story of the twentieth century":

"Over the course of six decades, some six million black southerners left the land of their forefathers and fanned out across the country for an uncertain existence in nearly every other corner of America. The Great Migration would become a turing point in history. It would transform urban America and recast the social and political order of every city it touched."

Wilkerson's book is a significant effort in understanding the leaderless Great Migration's meaning and its legacy.

Though she focuses on three main characters throughout, Wilkerson interviewed 1,200 people for the book and she also cites a variety of secondary sources. So while the book is narrative-driven, it is grounded in comprehensive research.

Some have criticized the book for repeating details but it seemed obvious that this was done so that chapters can work as stand-alone pieces, making this book a good resource for teachers. So I don't think this should be held against the book; it would be a shame if it hadn't been approached with classroom education in mind.

I do think this book is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand why racial inequality is so entrenched in the United States today. I plan to follow it up with Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow and Angela Davis' Are Prisons Obsolete? ( )
  maureenclare | Jan 17, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
I give this book two enthusiastic thumbs up: you’ll not only learn a lot about this underappreciated part of recent America history (I see its remnants about me every day in Chicago, since I live on the South Side, perhaps the most famous destination of the Migration), but also become deeply involved in the lives of Ida Mae, George, and Robert. The ending is poignant and bittersweet, and will make you both proud of the migrants and sad about their fate. The writing is quite good (Wilkerson won a Pulitzer Prize for journalism—the first black woman to do so—for her work at The New York Times), and the scholarship, though thorough, is worn lightly. (The book was 15 years in the making and Wilkerson interviewed over 1200 people.) If there’s one flaw—and it’s a small one—the writing is occasionally awkward and more than occasionally repetitious, with the same facts repeated in different places. But that’s a trifle that should by no means put you off.
Wilkerson intersperses historical detail of the broader movement and the sparks that set off the civil rights era; challenging racial restrictions in the North and South; and the changing dynamics of race, class, geography, politics, and economics. A sweeping and stunning look at a watershed event in U.S. history.
added by sduff222 | editBooklist, Vanessa Bush (Sep 15, 2010)
Wilkerson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, uses the journeys of three of them-a Mississippi sharecropper, a Louisiana doctor, and a Florida laborer--to etch an indelible and compulsively readable portrait of race, class, and politics in 20th-century America. History is rarely distilled so finely. A
added by sduff222 | editEntertainment Weekly, Tina Jordan (Sep 10, 2010)
Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson's magnificent, extensively researched study of the "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an "uncertain existence" in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.
added by sduff222 | editPublishers Weekly
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I was leaving the South
To fling myself into the unknown. . . .
I was taking a part of the South
To transplant in alien soil,
To see if it could grow differently.
If it could drink of new and cool rains,
Bend in strange winds,
Respond to the warmth of other suns
And, perhaps, to bloom.

- Richard Wright
To my mother and
to the memory of my father,
whose migration made me possible,
and to the millions of others like them
who dared to act upon their dreams.
First words
The night clouds were closing in on the salt licks east of the oxbow lakes along the folds in the earth beyond the Yalobusha River.
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In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America.
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In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America.… (more)

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