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

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
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it was amazing

I loved this book on several levels--though with one caveat. First and foremost, by narrating the lives of three very different participants in the Great Migration, Wilkerson fleshes out an important historical story that most of us know only in general outline, if that. The details of routine racial discrimination that these individuals faced both before and after coming to the North are horrifyingly vivid and impossible to ignore. Wilkerson's research is thorough and deep, and her (somewhat controversial) comparisons of African American migrants to immigrant populations strike me as particularly insightful. Her prose can indeed be luminous at times. But why, oh why, didn't her editor remove the frequent and maddening repetition of simple facts (Ida Mae was terrible at picking cotton; newspapers reported "without apology" the disparity between white and black teachers' pay), often within a short span of pages? As an editor, I may be unusually attuned to and distracted by this flaw--but I know I'm not the only one. Given the monumental effort involved in researching and writing (and marketing) this book, I wish someone had given the final manuscript the detailed editorial attention it deserved.
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Finished Reading
November 10, 2010 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)

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Anne Van Yes, I have very similar thoughts about both the terrific quality of the book and that weird repetition. I had assumed that different sections of the book might have been published as magazine feature stories or something. Another thing I wondered about was the length of time between her research, 1995 or so, I think, and the book's publication, maybe too many revisions and cut/paste?


Lauren It is totally an editorial issue. And I was so enthralled by her writing and the information and the people I tried so hard not to care. I cared anyway. I so agree--why oh why would someone not catch that? It is jarringly apparent and weird. It felt like she was a professor and she was preparing me for a final by sneakily repeating key facts that I'd have to write essays over. Still, a teeny tiny issue with an amazing book.


message 3: by Lynne (new) - added it

Lynne I am only 100 pages into it and the repetition is bothering me already. I hope it won't be too distracting from all the excellent reporting.


Anne Van Lynne, I definitely thought the book well worth reading, even with several annoying problems. Not so many books give such an in depth research of "ordinary" people. Also, I felt personally connected to the story with my own parents' migration from the midwest to California in 1950, and the different life that I lived because of their courage. anne


Barbara I agree. The only flaw in an otherwise excellent book.


Lois Bouchard My book club read it and we all said the same thing. Her editor wasn't doing his/her job.


Coco So true. It definitely distracted me from an otherwise well-written and researched book.


Susan I'm not an editor - not even close - and I noticed this too. I've seen this in books where the author expects readers to read bits and pieces, rather than the whole thing, but I can't see that Warmth of Other Suns is that sort of book.


message 9: by Kate (new) - added it

Kate Richardson I couldn't finish it because of this flaw--maddening!


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

Edie Allen The reason for those sloppy repetitions may be that publishers care only about the bottom line and are laying off editors to save money. If the book sells, so what? It is an extraordinary book, but good editing would have improved it.


Angela I listened to the audiobook and kept thinking "wait, didn't she just say that?" So glad to hear it wasn't just me.


Marika The repetitions bothered me too. I'm not an editor, but I am an attentive reader, and I agree that this carelessness was very distracting, though I didn't mention it in my review.


message 13: by Susan (new)

Susan Wolford The editor should be shot...unless the editor wasn't able to do her/his job thanks to a stubborn author. Who knows which is the case.


Margaret Mary Wow! Different perspectives are so interesting. I'm an avid reader, but I sometimes have trouble remembering detail, because I read it a little here & a little there, in the midst of busy life. I noticed the repetition but in a positive way, because I just appreciated being reminded of who was who, especially reading on Kindle, where I can leaf back through easily.


Margaret Mary I meant to say "on Kindle, where I canNOT leaf back through easily. :)


Shauna Boyd Yes, I keep having this issue as well, thinking, "Wait, have I already read this part?"


Patty I found this repetition annoying as a listener. The book is 19 CDs long, a few cuts would have made us all happier.


Cindy Fried chicken and boiled eggs on the train over and over and over


Wendy agree. bad editting! it deserves better!


Xavier Jenkins I understand your point of view. However, her repetitiveness had a very different...and I'm hoping, intended effect. It seared the inescapability of that existence into my mind. It weighed on me as I read the book. And it offered a sensory element to all that I read. Another way to think of it is, whether editors did this on purpose or not, it had the same impact on you. Perhaps it wasn't an accident?


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