JJ's Reviews > The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Dec 08, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: faves, historic, tear-jerker, african-american
Recommended for: Anyone, espescially those who like history.
Read from January 26 to February 24, 2011 — I own a copy , read count: 1

Thinking back, I tried to recall some of the migrations that took place within America that I had learned about:

- The Gold Rush
- The Dustbowl Migration

Somewhere along the lines, my teachers forgot to mention the approximately six million people that left the Jim Crow South during 1915-1975, in search of a “kinder mistress”, and that they summoned up the courage, and risked their lives to drive cross-country, illegally hop trains, and save for months to secure a train ticket headed to Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia, etc. This migration was similar to that of anyone crossing the Atlantic or the Rio Grande, except that these migrants were already citizens of this country, but just like other migrants, they were escaping the hardships of [one part of] their own country. This daunting journey could be clear across the continent, and to a world that was completely foreign to them. Many of these Americans never looked back. Some blending into the crowds to never be heard from again, and some even changing their names to forever cut any ties to the South.

Wilkerson herself was a product of this migration, as her parents left the South early on. She had recognized the fact that this generation of Southerners was dwindling and that her time to gather information was limited. She spent fifteen years of her life devoted to this book, and spent countless hours researching and interviewing approximately 1200 people, to tell a story she thought everyone should know. Rightfully so, as this migration went on to shape America’s urban cities, their culture, the geography of neighborhoods, and the beginnings of suburbanization and housing projects.

In the beginning, I found it really difficult to read. She detailed the brutality of the south, the injustices, lynchings, the degradation and despair. I couldn’t fathom growing up in the South during this time, being treated inhumanely and the hopelessness of ever rising above it.

Wilkerson tells the stories of three migrants, Ida Mae Gladney, who left Mississippi for Chicago, George Starling who left Florida for New York, and finally Robert Pershing Foster who left Louisiana for Los Angeles. Their stories are different and unique, yet they intertwine, and are interspersed with detailed facts about the migration and other stories of the South. But in telling the stories of Ida, George and Robert, she personalized and humanized it. You cried with them, you hoped for them, and you rooted for them. In the end, I couldn’t put it down. I had to read more, hoping they would “make it”. How amazing it must have been to have sat with them and heard firsthand this bit of history.

It is part journalism (she is a Pulitzer prize winning journalist), part storytelling. It’s epic, it’s heartbreaking, inspirational and educational. I have learned so much from this book. It is one of the best pieces of non-fiction I have ever read. I was intrigued and moved by it, and will carry their stories with me for many years to come.

In one of my favorite quotes of this book, Robert said, “How could it be that people were fighting to the death over something that was, in the end, so very ordinary”. Yes, something as ordinary as being free to go and do as you please, and to do something as “ordinary’ as sitting in a diner with everyone else and eating a meal just as he had.
122 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Warmth of Other Suns.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

02/04/2011 page 92
02/25/2011 page 640
100.0% 5 comments
02/07/2016 marked as: read
show 7 hidden updates…

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by EZRead (new)

EZRead eBookstore This sounds AMAZING. Will have to check it out!

message 2: by JJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

JJ In a nutshell, yes, AMAZING! Let me know what you think when the times comes. =)

message 3: by Chantelle (new) - added it

Chantelle I am so reading this. And soon.

message 4: by JJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

JJ Chantelle, Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Albert Griffin Your honesty was so appealing. Thank you!

Albert Griffin Your honesty was so appealing. Thank you!

message 7: by Joanna (new) - added it

Joanna Holmes Thank you for that great review

loafingcactus I'm listening to this book on tape right now and this is what astonishes me: not only did I never hear about The Great Migration in grades school, I took American History in college and didn't hear about it. I learned about it because of the advertising for this book, and now that I'm in the book it's even bigger than I thought I had come to understand.

message 9: by JJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

JJ Albert wrote: "Your honesty was so appealing. Thank you!"

Thank you for your note, Albert. The book was seriously mind blowing for me.

message 10: by JJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

JJ loafingcactus wrote: "I'm listening to this book on tape right now and this is what astonishes me: not only did I never hear about The Great Migration in grades school, I took American History in college and didn't hear..."

Seriously right? My mind was blown on multiple levels. I shudder to think about what else our history teachers/professors left out.

back to top