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The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration Paperback – October 4, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (October 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679763880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679763888
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,197 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man's turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners' plans to give him a "necktie party" (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by "the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn't operate in his own home town." 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

In The Warmth of Other Suns Wilkerson has composed a masterpiece of narrative journalism on a subject vital to our national identity, as compelling as it is heartbreaking and hopeful. Critics, however, were less certain about whether Wilkerson has written a definitive history of the Great Migration. Several reviewers saw the book as an important corrective to previous scholarship on the Migration that too often grouped African Americans into a voiceless mass, that focused exclusively on the negative consequences of their move to Northern urban centers, and that often emphasized economic and sociological explanations at the expense of the personal. Other critics felt that Wilkerson could have taken advantage of more of this scholarship, even if it was sometimes flawed, and could have taken into account larger structural influences. But The Warmth of Other Suns is an impressive achievement--a fresh, rich look at an important chapter in American history. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson is author of "The Warmth of Other Suns," the New York Times bestseller that tells the true story of three people who made the decision of their lives during the Great Migration, a watershed in American history. The book won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, the Anisfield-Wolf Award for Nonfiction, the Lynton History Prize from Harvard and Columbia universities, the Stephen Ambrose Oral History Prize and was shortlisted for both the Pen-Galbraith Literary Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

The book was named to more than 30 Best of the Year lists, including The New York Times' 10 Best Books of the Year, Amazon's 5 Best Books of the Year and Best of the Year lists in The New Yorker, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, USA Today, The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, The San Francisco Examiner, Newsday, Salon, The Christian Science Monitor, O Magazine, Publishers Weekly, Entertainment Weekly and over a dozen others. It made national news when President Obama chose the book for summer reading in 2011. In 2012, The New York Times Magazine named Warmth to its list of the best nonfiction books of all time.

The Great Migration was one of the biggest underreported stories of the 20th Century. It lasted from 1915 to 1970, involved six million people and was one of the largest internal migrations in U.S. history. It changed the country, North and South. It brought us John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Toni Morrison, August Wilson, Bill Russell, Motown, Denzel Washington, Michelle Obama -- all children or grandchildren of the Great Migration. It changed the cultural and political landscape of the United States, exerting pressure on the South to change and paving the way toward equal rights for the lowest caste people in the country.

Wilkerson won the Pulitzer Prize for her work as Chicago Bureau Chief of The New York Times in 1994, making her the first black woman in the history of American journalism to win a Pulitzer Prize and the first African-American to win for individual reporting. She has appeared on national programs such as "Fresh Air with Terry Gross," "The Charlie Rose Show," "The PBS News Hour," CBS's "60 Minutes," NBC's "Nightly News," MSNBC's "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell," the BBC and others. She has served as Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University, as Cox Professor of Journalism at Emory University, as Professor of Journalism and Director of Narrative Nonfiction at Boston University and has lectured at more than 100 other colleges and universities across the U.S. and in Europe and Asia.

Follow Isabel Wilkerson on Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Isabel-Wilkerson/140162739346559 and on Twitter via @isabelwilkerson.

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Customer Reviews

The book tells the story of the great migration of blacks from the American South to the North and West.
Amazon Customer
This book should be required reading for all American History students, high school and college, in this country and anyone abroad who studies American History.
Ivy Evans-Sledge
Ms. Wilkerson has done some wonderful research on this book and taken care to craft the story in a way that makes it interesting and informative.
Gerald Hill

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

560 of 574 people found the following review helpful By Wulfstan TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Isabel Wilkerson, the Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper writer, has now come back to write a fascinating and sweeping book on what she calls ""the biggest underreported story of the twentieth century."

This is the story... no- make that the stories... of the "Great Migration", the migration of sharecroppers and others from the Cotton Belt to the Big Cities: New York, Chicago, Detroit, LA and etc in the period between the World Wars. Over one million blacks left the South and went North (or West). Of course we all know the tale of the "Dust Bowl" and the "Okies", as captured by Steinbeck in words, by Dorothea Lange in photographs, and even in song by Woody Guthrie. But this was as big or even bigger (estimates vary), and to this day the story has not been covered anywhere near as well as the "Dust Bowl" migrations.

Wilkerson's book has more than ten years of research in its making, and thus is a large and weighty volume at more than 600 pages. It is also personally researched, the author having interviewed over 1,200 people. She picked three dozen of those to interview in great depth, and choose but three of those stories to present to you here.

The title of this book is taken from Richard Wright's "Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth": "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."

http://www.amazon.com/Black-Boy-Record-Childhood-Youth/dp/0060834005

This book is a not an easy summer read, mind you.
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260 of 266 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on September 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Between World War I and the presidency of Richard Nixon, some six million black Americans fled the indignities and oppression they grew up with in the American south and headed north or west in search of freedom. Some found at least a modicum of it. Some did not. This mass migration --- unplanned, haphazard and often resented --- has affected our laws, our politics and our social relations in all kinds of ways. Some for the better, some not.

Isabel Wilkerson did a mountain of research to tell this story. She conducted some 1,200 interviews and digested a huge volume of sociological data. Wisely, she concentrated her book on just three of those six million people --- a gutsy woman from the cotton plantations of Mississippi, an orange picker from central Florida and an aspiring doctor from Louisiana. Each of them left the south in a different decade and with different motivations. They met with varying degrees of success and disappointment. While they didn't achieve everything they had hoped for, none of them in their final assessment regretted their move.

Wilkerson plays off these three protagonists against a vast chorus of others whose stories vary wildly but all come down to the determination to leave behind intolerable social oppression and at least try their luck in freer air. Wilkerson herself, a child of two black immigrants from Georgia, is a part of that chorus. Her book is valuable on several levels. It documents in gut-wrenching detail the brutal way these migrants were treated in the region of their birth. It is honest about their own personal failings and the not-always beneficial effect that northern life had on them. It challenges the popular assumption that they themselves caused the problems that have made their life up north so difficult.
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195 of 207 people found the following review helpful By Usonian33 on September 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
There is a page in the book where Wilkerson recounts what a single day of picking cotton in the old South entailed...it's a pretty remarkable mini essay in its own right, and you probably won't forget it. The whole book is like this, with one powerful anecdote after another, woven together with great skill. I've always been fascinated with the Jim Crow era in America, and eyewitness stories of those who lived through it...though this book only follows 3 people out of the millions who endured it, it captures America in the 2oth Century as well as just about social history I've ever read.

As a gay man, I often look to these books to be inspired by how black Americans "soldiered on" and showed such unbreakable spirit during these years. No, I personally never experienced even 1/10th of their struggle, but it still empowers me to face prejudice and avoid a lazy victimhood mentality. I am incredibly grateful for books like this, as should anyone who faces prejudice or discrimination by a majority.

Clearly a book of this scope took years to complete, and I'm rooting for this to win this year's National Book Award. I suggest you set aside a whole weekend like I did and savor every page of it.
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132 of 145 people found the following review helpful By James W. Durney TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
100 years ago, the majority of "colored people" lived in the rural South. Outside of the South, most major cities had a small Black population but large areas had little to no Black population. Most of the West and much of the rural Mid-West were White. A Black person was an oddity and many small children had never seen a Black person.
In 60 years, most major American cities had a large Black population. Black America is largely defined as an urban people, who spread over America. This change, from the slower pace of the rural South to the rapid pace of Northern and Western cities is one of the great stories of the 20th Century and one that few wish to tell.
This book looks at that migration as both a personal experience and as history. The author emphasizes personal experience. This migration is documented through the experiences of three participants. If you are looking for a conventional history, you will not be happy with this book. If you are looking for a very well written book chronicling Black life from the 1920s to the 1970s, this is an excellent book.
While not a fun read, it is an easy book to read and can be enjoyable. This is a story of people looking for a better life and the adjustments forced on them. Some of the adjustments are painful others are very satisfying to them. The author captures the times and the people, their joys and sorrows.
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