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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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Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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."
This book is a not an easy summer read, mind you.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
"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."
Based on more that 1200 interviews with participant in the Great Migration, Wilkerson's book is much more an oral history and a work of literature than it is an academic study.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent writing! Well researched.This is a big important book and so beautifully written. A very significant part of the American experience presented in a unique creative heart... Read morePublished 9 hours ago by big guy
Outstanding book - very readable, well written and a good mix of personal stories and carefully researched information.Published 2 days ago by SC
Fascinating read about the history of our country, as it relates to "integration" of blacks. Horrifying history, and as we look at today--- it still exists.Published 2 days ago by jon do
This was an amazing, powerful book. Adds so much context to today's struggles.Published 4 days ago by Carrie Hernandez