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Book Buddy ! > The Warmth of Other Suns ~ May 2013

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message 1: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments What's this? This is the thread for our May 2013 Book Buddy Read. All are encouraged to join in the discussion!


Book: The Warmth of Other Suns The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

Author:
Isabel Wilkerson Isabel Wilkerson
Isabel Wilkerson won the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for her reporting as Chicago bureau chief of The New York Times. The award made 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 won the George Polk Award for her coverage of the Midwest and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for her research into the Great Migration. She has lectured on narrative writing at the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University and has served as Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University and as the James M. Cox Jr. Professor of Journalism at Emory University. She is currently Professor of Journalism and Director of Narrative Nonfiction at Boston University. During the Great Migration, her parents journeyed from Georgia and southern Virginia to Washington, D.C., where she was born and reared. This is her first book.

When: The discussion will begin May 1, 2013.
We will begin reading the book on the first of the month and continue to read and discuss it all month long.

Where: The discussion will take place in this thread.

Spoiler Etiquette:
The book is divided into 5 parts.
Please put the Part # and chapter title at the top of your post.

Book Detail:
Paperback: 538 pages
Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (October 4, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0679763880

Synopsis:
From World War I to the 1970s, some six million black Americans fled the American South for an uncertain existence in the urban North and West. They left all they knew and took a leap of faith that they might find freedom under the Warmth of Other Suns.

Their leaving became known as the Great Migration. It brought us James Baldwin, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Richard Wright and the forebears of Michelle Obama, Toni Morrison and of most African-Americans in the North and West. It set in motion the civil rights movement and created our cities and art forms.

This is the story of three who made the journey, of the forces that compelled them to leave and of the many others—famous and not so famous—who went as far as they could to realize the American Dream.


message 2: by Alias Reader (last edited Dec 30, 2012 08:36AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments Discussion Questions


1. The Warmth of Other Suns combines a sweeping historical perspective with vivid intimate portraits of three individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, George Swanson Starling, and Robert Pershing Foster. What is the value of this dual focus, of shifting between the panoramic and the close-up? In what ways are Ida Mae Gladney, George Starling, and Robert Foster representative of the millions of other migrants who journeyed from South to North?

2. In many ways The Warmth of Other Suns seeks to tell a new story—about the Great Migration of southern blacks to the north—and to set the record straight about the true significance of that migration. What are the most surprising revelations in the book? What misconceptions does Wilkerson dispel?

3. What were the major economic, social, and historical forces that sparked the Great Migration? Why did blacks leave in such great numbers from 1915 to 1970?

4. What were the most horrifying conditions of Jim Crow South? What instances of racial terrorism stand out most strongly in the book? What daily injustices and humiliations did blacks have to face there?

5. In what ways was the Great Migration of southern blacks similar to other historical migrations? In what important ways was it unique?

6. After being viciously attacked by a mob in Cicero, a suburb of Chicago, Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “I have seen many demonstrations in the South, but I have never seen anything so hostile and so hateful as I’ve seen here today” (p. 389). Why were northern working-class whites so hostile to black migrants?

7. Wilkerson quotes Black Boy in which Richard Wright wrote, on arriving in the North: “I had fled one insecurity and embraced another” (p. 242). What unique challenges did black migrants face in the North? How did these challenges affect the lives of Ida Mae Gladney, George Starling, and Robert Foster?

8. Wilkerson points out that the three most influential figures in jazz were all children of the Great Migration: Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane. What would American culture look like today if the Great Migration hadn’t happened?

9. What motivated Ida Mae Gladney, George Starling, and Robert Foster to leave the South? What circumstances and inner drives prompted them to undertake such a difficult and dangerous journey? What would likely have been their fates if they had remained in the South? In what ways did living in the North free them?

10. Near the end of the book, Wilkerson asks: “With all that grew out of the mass movement of people, did the Great Migration achieve the aim of those who willed it? Were the people who left the South—and their families—better off for having done so? Was the loss of what they left behind worth what confronted them in the anonymous cities they fled to?” (p. 528). How does Wilkerson answer these questions?

11. How did the Great Migration change not only the North but also the South? How did the South respond to the mass exodus of cheap black labor?

12. In what ways are current attitudes toward Mexican Americans similar to attitudes toward African Americans expressed by Northerners in The Warmth of Other Suns? For example, the ways working-class Northerners felt that Southern blacks were stealing their jobs.

13. At a neighborhood watch meeting in Chicago’s South Shore, Ida Mae listens to a young state senator named Barack Obama. In what ways is Obama’s presidency a indirect result of the Great Migration?

14. What is the value of Wilkerson basing her research primarily on firsthand, eyewitness accounts, gathered through extensive interviews, of this historical period?

15. Wilkerson writes of her three subjects that “Ida Mae Gladney had the humblest trappings but was perhaps the richest of them all. She had lived the hardest life, been given the least education, seen the worst the South could hurl at her people, and did not let it break her.... Her success was spiritual, perhaps the hardest of all to achieve. And because of that, she was the happiest and lived the longest of them all” (p. 532). What attributes allowed Ida Mae Gladney to achieve this happiness and longevity? In what sense might her life, and the lives of George Starling and Robert Foster as well, serve as models for how to persevere and overcome tremendous difficulties?

(Discussion Questions issued by publisher.)


message 3: by Madrano (new)

Madrano (madran) | 3732 comments I'm looking forward to reading this one together.


message 4: by Amy (new)

Amy (amybf) | 514 comments If anybody hears that this book is on sale/a "Daily Find" for the Nook in the next few months, please post and let me know so I can download it!


message 5: by Babs (new)

Babs (somedaybabs) Amy wrote: "If anybody hears that this book is on sale/a "Daily Find" for the Nook in the next few months, please post and let me know so I can download it!"

I am on the waiting list for it as an e-book for my tablet from my library. Check your library catalog.


message 6: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments Thanks for the reminder, Babs. I think the book will be a very good discussion book.


message 7: by Madrano (new)

Madrano (madran) | 3732 comments Babs, thanks for mentioning the e-book. I have the paper form & it's heavy. I think i'll upload the e-book from my library & use the paper just for the endnotes, which are plentiful, i noted.


message 8: by Connie (last edited Apr 28, 2013 08:28PM) (new)

Connie G (connie_g) | 285 comments As I was checking out this book, a librarian told me that he thought Isabel Wilkerson was a wonderful speaker when she came to Trinity College. He said that YouTube has some of her interviews, especially when she won the Pulitzer Prize.

He also mentioned that Richard Wright, the author of Native Son and Black Boy, had migrated to feel "the warmth of other suns." That's how Isabel Wilkerson got the name for her book.


message 9: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments Connie, I've read both Native Son and Black Boy. Native son is terrific.

I would have loved to hear her speak. I'll see if I can come up with a few YouTube videos.


message 10: by Alias Reader (last edited Apr 29, 2013 07:23AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson discusses her book "The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migratio," presented by Harvard Book Store.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hoAYn...

-------------------
C-SPAN Q&A with Isabel Wilkerson - interviewed by Brian Lamb

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsN3hM...


message 11: by Madrano (new)

Madrano (madran) | 3732 comments My sister & i were discussing all the available topics on YouTube. I think the above proves the point. Who would have thought to look her up? Me, for now on, let me tell ya! Thanks.


message 12: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments Madrano wrote: "My sister & i were discussing all the available topics on YouTube. I think the above proves the point. Who would have thought to look her up? Me, for now on, let me tell ya! Thanks."
===================================

Funny you should mention that, Deb. Just today at my library group we were discussing the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks The librarian noted that there was some really interesting info on Lacks and also the author on YouTube. She particularly mentioned this video.

The Way of All Flesh by Adam Curtis
In 1998, Modern Times: The Way of All Flesh, a one-hour BBC documentary on Henrietta Lacks and HeLa directed by Adam Curtis, won the Best Science and Nature Documentary at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0lMrp...


message 13: by Madrano (new)

Madrano (madran) | 3732 comments I had no idea, Alias. It proves the point, doesn't it?


message 14: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments Connie wrote: "As I was checking out this book, a librarian told me that he thought Isabel Wilkerson was a wonderful speaker when she came to Trinity College. He said that YouTube has some of her interviews, esp..."

--------------------

I see the book opens with an epigraph by Wright.

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.
~ Richard Wright.


message 15: by Alias Reader (last edited May 02, 2013 06:17AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments To help others know where in the book you are referring to it would helpful if you put the Part or page # at the top of the post.

Part 1

I was surprised to learn that the Great Migration takes place over such a long period. 1915 - 1970. However, it makes perfect sense when the author notes that it "grew out of the unmet promises made after the Civil War and, through the sheer weight of it, helped push the country toward the civil rights revolutions of the 1960s."

I've only read the few pages in Part 1, but I think I am going to enjoy this book very much.


message 16: by Julie (new)

Julie (readerjules) | 1219 comments I liked this book a lot when I read it. I will follow along in this thread with you guys.


message 17: by Connie (last edited May 02, 2013 08:06AM) (new)

Connie G (connie_g) | 285 comments I like the way the author is alternating between history, and stories of three families that migrated North. This is not a dry history book.

Jim Crow Laws

P 38 "Separate but equal" often meant "separate but inferior" in reality. "In 1896, in the seminal case of Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court sided with the South and ruled, in an eight-to-one vote, that "equal but separate" accomodations were constitutional. That ruling would stand for the next sixty years."

P 39 "Across the South, someone was hanged or burned alive every four days from 1889 to 1929, according to the 1933 book 'The Tragedy of Lynching"..."

P 40 "It was during that time, around the turn of the twentieth century, that southern state legislatures began devising with inventiveness and precision laws that would regulate every aspect of black people's lives, solidify the southern caste system, and prohibit even the most casual and incidental contact between the races."

P 45 "Jim Crow would not get a proper burial until the enactment of federal legislation, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was nonetheless resisted years after its passage as vigorously as Reconstruction had been and would not fully take hold in many parts of the South until well into the 1970s."

There were totally chilling reasons for the exodus northward.


message 18: by Alias Reader (last edited May 02, 2013 10:28AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments Connie wrote: "I like the way the author is alternating between history, and stories of three families that migrated North. This is not a dry history book.

------------------

I agree. I don't know how long the term Narrative Nonfiction has been in use, but I like the genre.


message 19: by Connie (new)

Connie G (connie_g) | 285 comments Thanks for finding the epigraph by Richard Wright, Alias, with "the warmth of other suns" mentioned.


message 20: by Alias Reader (last edited May 03, 2013 10:39AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments Connie wrote: "Thanks for finding the epigraph by Richard Wright, Alias, with "the warmth of other suns" mentioned."
=====================

It's right before the table of contents.


message 21: by Alias Reader (last edited May 04, 2013 07:04PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments Today I had just read The Stirrings of Discontent chapter, page 39, where the author notes, "Fifteen thousand men, women, and children gathered to watch 18 year old Jesse Washington as he was burned alive in Waco, Tx. in May 1916."

The main branch of the NYC library always has an exhibit. As I was in the area I checked it out. What did they have on exhibit? A book opened to pictures of the Waco, TX lynching. I couldn't believe it.

Wiki has the pics I saw.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynching...


message 22: by Alias Reader (last edited May 07, 2013 06:38PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments page 61

We often want our leaders to be people we can look up to and admire and we expect them to be perfect. So, invariably, we are often disappointed.

One of my favorite presidents is, FDR. I've read a few books on him. However, this was the first time that I recall reading anything about him and the torture and lynching of Claude Neal and his refusal to do anything about it. I understand the politics of the situation. Still...

http://www.legendsofamerica.com/ah-ly...


message 23: by Madrano (new)

Madrano (madran) | 3732 comments Alias Reader wrote: " I don't know how long the term Narrative Nonfiction has been in use, but I like the genre. ..."

Thanks for the terminology, Alias. Apparently i am not a fan. I tried to read this book with the group but the narrative aspect, the lives of the individuals, did not appeal to me at all. The topic itself intrigues me & i hope i'll find a book which calls to me better next time.

That written, i will say that i wondered about the stats, which i realize were not compiled by her. They included Oklahoma, which i don't really consider "the south" but not Texas, which i do. Indeed, Texas had Civil War battles, whereas OK wasn't even a state during the war. Still, the numbers were impressive.

Quotes i liked from what i read follow:

p 10. "But more remarkably, it was the first mass act of independence by a people who were in bondage in this country for far longer than they have been free."

Same page, from John Dollard, Yale scholar studying & writing about the south in 1930s, "Oftentimes, just to go away is one of the most aggressive things than another person can do, and if the means of expressing discontent are limited, as in this case, it is one of the few ways in which pressure can be put."

End of same section, next page. "It was a 'folk movement of incalculable moment,' McMillen said. [ Neil McMillen, Mississippi historian]
"And more than that, it was the first big step the nation's servant class ever took without asking."

Excellent statements which kept me reading for the first 50 pages, at which point i just didn't have it in myself to continue. I really appreciated her liberal use of poetry & other quotes introducing the sections & chapters, too. I'll continue to read your comments, however.


message 24: by Alias Reader (last edited May 08, 2013 09:19AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments Sorry to hear you won't be reading it, Deb. But if it's not your cuppa, I understand.

Is anyone else reading this with me ?

I may be reading it slowly as I have library books to read that I can't renew. So I will probably be reading a few books at the same time. Still my goal is to finish it this month.


message 25: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments Madrano wrote: Oftentimes, just to go away is one of the most aggressive things than another person can do

------------
I highlighted this sentence, too. It stopped me cold in my reading and made me reflect on it.


message 26: by Julie (new)

Julie (readerjules) | 1219 comments Alias Reader wrote: "Sorry to hear you won't be reading it, Deb. But if it's not your cuppa, I understand.

Is anyone else reading this with me ? ..."


I am reading your comments here if that matters. :-)


message 27: by Julie (new)

Julie (readerjules) | 1219 comments Looks like Connie is reading it.


message 28: by Connie (new)

Connie G (connie_g) | 285 comments I'm reading it along with some other books that I need to finish for library bookgroups, or that will be due soon at the library. I was not the person who wanted to be the book buddy originally.


message 29: by Alias Reader (last edited May 08, 2013 07:08PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments That's okay, Connie. Please don't feel you have to read or comment on the book. This is supposed to be fun, not an obligation.

As I said I also have some other books that I can't renew from the library that I need to read. This will let me read at a more leisurely pace.

I will continue to read the book over the course of the month and comment. If anyone else wishes to read it and have a discussion here, please do so. :)


message 30: by Babs (new)

Babs (somedaybabs) It just become available for me on loan as e-book so I am going to start it soon.

I also am finishing up a book, Dreams of Joy by Lisa See on loan....Dreams of Joy


message 31: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments Great, Babs. I am still reading it. However, I have to read another book for a book club by the 20th. Once I finish that I can start reading it again. Though I will be reading along with some other library books that I can't renew.

I usually am not so mix up with other reading obligations. Sorry !

I look forward to your thoughts on the book as you read.


message 32: by Babs (new)

Babs (somedaybabs) I will be reading it along with other reads and renewing it as an e-read as needed.

I like the reviews I read comparing the writing to Grapes of Wrath.


message 33: by Connie (new)

Connie G (connie_g) | 285 comments Page 161 (Hardcover Book)

World War I set off the Great Migration. There was a labor shortage in the North because so many men were in the military. Labor was needed to produce goods for the military, and to transport goods. The war had also cut back on the immigration of European workers.Scouts were sent down South to recruit workers for the steel mills, railroads, and packinghouses. Another large group of African-Americans went North during World War II.


message 34: by Connie (last edited May 12, 2013 09:28PM) (new)

Connie G (connie_g) | 285 comments Page 216

"The Chicago Defender" was founded in 1905, and printed primarily for African-American readers. It was a major influence in the Great Migration since it printed articles about racial equality, and lynchings in the South. It promoted migration to the North. It also ran articles about black cultural life in Chicago, and featured stories about successful black individuals.

Wikipedia article
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_...


message 35: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments Babs wrote: "I will be reading it along with other reads and renewing it as an e-read as needed.

I like the reviews I read comparing the writing to Grapes of Wrath."

-------------

Yes. In the beginning of the book she mentions other migrations.

Have you read Grapes? I would put it in the top 5 of classic books I've read.


message 36: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments Connie wrote: "Page 161 (Hardcover Book)

World War I set off the Great Migration. There was a labor shortage in the North because so many men were in the military. Labor was needed to produce goods for the mil..."

------------
The starting year sort of took me by surprise. For some reason I don't think of WWI and migration.


message 37: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments Connie wrote: "Page 216

"The Chicago Defender" was founded in 1905, and printed primarily for African-American readers. It was a major influence in the Great Migration since it printed articles about racial eq..."

----------------

I think it's unfortunate that we don't have all the daily newspapers that there used to be. To me reading the news on the internet is just not the same.

If you like to read a variety of newspapers, here is a terrific link.

http://www.refdesk.com/paper.html


message 38: by Julie (new)

Julie (readerjules) | 1219 comments Alias Reader wrote: "I think it's unfortunate that we don't have all the daily newspapers that there used to be. To me reading the news on the internet is just not the same. ..."

The big daily newspaper around here recently announced that although it will still publish every day, it will soon begin delivery to homes only three days a week. The people who subscribe can get it daily in e-format. Or drive to the store to buy a paper copy.


message 39: by Madrano (new)

Madrano (madran) | 3732 comments Julie, that is an interesting solution for the newspaper. I wonder how that will work out? I was with other long-time Dallas residents recently & we all bemoaned the fact we no longer have two newspapers in town. The sad part is we all agreed the better paper was the one which folded. They made one poor choice back in the '70s, in giving up all the advice columns, such "Dear Abby", which, as it turned out, was why many people subscribed. Goodbye, Revenue!


message 40: by Julie (new)

Julie (readerjules) | 1219 comments Deb, it seems odd to me for this reason: We subscribe to this paper on sundays only. For many years now, they keep offering to send us the paper every day for the same price for 90 days. I always took them up on the offer and then another 3 months or so after doing sunday only again, we would get another offer. I was told by an employee that they do it so that they can claim higher distribution rates and get more money from advertisers. It is the advertising that pays for most of the paper, not the customers themselves. Now they are doing a 180 and cutting back on subscriptions on purpose.... weird.


message 41: by Alias Reader (last edited May 13, 2013 10:25AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments The NY Times has been very successful with their online version.

Still reading a paper online is not the same for me. Reading the NY Times on the weekend with a nice cup of tea is pure joy. I guess the online is good if you commute.

I do like the link to all the newspapers in the U.S. and abroad that I posted in message #37. It's fun to read papers from around the country. For some reason I used to read the Seattle paper a lot. :)


message 42: by Madrano (new)

Madrano (madran) | 3732 comments Julie, we, too, get Sunday only & have had the same offers. As tempted as we are, we just can't read newspapers day after day anymore, so we passed. The reasoning you shared makes sense & i hope they can work it out. Two newspapers in one city keep them both honest, so to speak.

Alias, what is it about Seattle? My sister does the same thing, reads their paper online. She'll send me links to articles from them too. It must be those "bluest skies".


message 43: by Alias Reader (last edited May 14, 2013 03:11PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments I don't know why. I guess I like the idea I have of Seattle. I've never been there, but I hear it is beautiful and nice for people who love to walk. It also has a thriving book culture I hear. As to the Seattle paper, they seemed to have interesting articles and book reviews. I haven't read it in a few years. I should start checking out the papers from the link again.


message 44: by Amy (new)

Amy (amybf) | 514 comments My sister-in-law lives in Seattle and my father-in-law owns property on the Olympic Peninsula just across Puget Sound, so we've visted there a number of times. I agree with you, Alias--there is a thriving book culture, as well as an overall intellectual vibe that is stimulating and exhilarating. It's one of the cities on my list of "places I would totally love to live." Someday, maybe.


message 45: by Kriverbend (new)

Kriverbend | 28 comments Alias Reader wrote:
If you like to read a variety of newspapers, here is a terrific link.

http://www.refdesk.com/paper.html


That's a geat link...many thanks!

Lois



message 46: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 18813 comments Hi Lois, long time no see. Hope all is well.

The entire refdesk.com site is comprised of links for everything. I often say if there isn't a link for what you are looking for on refdesk, you don't need to know it ! :) Be forewarned. You could lose hours on that site with all the links.


message 47: by Babs (new)

Babs (somedaybabs) Alias Reader wrote: "Babs wrote: "I will be reading it along with other reads and renewing it as an e-read as needed.

I like the reviews I read comparing the writing to Grapes of Wrath."
-------------

Yes. In the ..."


Yes, read Grapes and really liked it.


message 48: by Babs (last edited May 15, 2013 08:21AM) (new)

Babs (somedaybabs) Kriverbend wrote: "Alias Reader wrote:
If you like to read a variety of newspapers, here is a terrific link.

http://www.refdesk.com/paper.html


That's a geat link...many thanks!


Oh what fun..revisited Boulder, CO in their Boulder Weekly.



message 49: by Babs (new)

Babs (somedaybabs) Julie wrote: "Alias Reader wrote: "I think it's unfortunate that we don't have all the daily newspapers that there used to be. To me reading the news on the internet is just not the same. ..."

The big daily ne..."



Sounds similar to what the mail service wants to do in New York State...eliminate Saturday delivery...which I would be OK with because it is usually junk mail..packages would still be delivered or could get picked up.


message 50: by Madrano (new)

Madrano (madran) | 3732 comments Alias Reader wrote: "The entire refdesk.com site is comprised of links for everything. I often say if there isn't a link for what you are looking for on refdesk, you don't need to know it ! :) ..."

Love it! I'm inclined to agree, too.


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