Thursday, June 14, 2012

Review: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Rating: 5 Stars
Pages: 622
Genre: History (African-America)
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Publication Date: 2010
Source: Library

Synopsis (GoodReads):
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. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.

With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.

Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic


I don't even know where to begin with reviewing this one. So, it's going to be short.  

First off it is epic. There are over 600 pages about 100 of them are methodology and the index.

In the 500 pages that are left there is so much personally stories, and historically facts.

I normally find history books to be "dry" but not The Warmth of Other Suns.  I found it to be engaging and easy to read.   I think the fact that Wilkerson, focused large portions of the book on the personal experiences of Foster, Sterling and Gladney helped a lot.  In between their stories she will add in facts about the time periods and history of the south and the migration.

I experienced every emotion possible while reading this one: happiness, anger, excitement, pride, disappointment, sadness.

In fact, at one point at the end I had to put the book down because I did not want to read about Ida Mae Gladney dying.  I had already read about George Sterling and Robert Foster dying and I did not think that I could handle her dying as well.  All three of them, Gladney, Sterling and Foster, had became family members to me.  In them, I saw member of my own family.  Ida Mae reminds me of my great grandmother, who is originally from Texas but migrated to California in the 1950s.

Wilkerson did a great job telling the story of the Great Migration and the people the participated in it.

Overall Recommendation:

A most read, for everyone especially those that are children, grandchildren, great grandchildren (etc, etc, etc.)  who people who migrated from the south to the north, east and west.

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