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Winner, National Book Critics Circle Award (General Nonfiction)
Finalist, 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Non-fiction
A Booklist Top 10 Black History Nonfiction Book
In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.
With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.
Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic.
To hear the author speak about the book, go to: http://tinyurl.com/33yfn8c
Praise for The Warmth of Other Suns....
"...[A] landmark piece of nonfiction. In a book that, quite amazingly, is her first, Ms. Wilkerson (a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Chicago bureau chief for The New York Times who is now professor of journalism and director of narrative nonfiction at Boston University) has pulled off an all but impossible feat. She has documented the sweeping 55-year-long migration of black Americans across their own country. She has challenged the dismissive assumptions that are sometimes made about that migration, treating it as a briefer and more easily explained event. She works on a grand, panoramic scale but also on a very intimate one, since this work of living history boils down to the tenderly told stories of three rural Southerners who immigrated to big cities from their hometowns. She winds up with a mesmerizing book that warrants comparison to “The Promised Land,” Nicholas Lemann’s study of the Great Migration’s early phase, and “Common Ground,” J. Anthony Lukas’s great, close-range look at racial strife in Boston....[Wilkerson's] closeness with, and profound affection for, her subjects reflect her deep immersion in their stories and allow the reader to share that connection. It creates a wide swath of human drama. And it shapes a new understanding of why Southerners’ new lives in strife-torn cities far from home may not have been easier than the lives they left behind." --Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"...[A] massive and masterly account of the Great Migration....Based on more than a thousand interviews, written in broad imaginative strokes, this book, at 622 pages, is something of an anomaly in today’s shrinking world of nonfiction publishing: a narrative epic rigorous enough to impress all but the crankiest of scholars, yet so immensely readable...." --The New York Times Book Review
“[A] deeply affecting, finely crafted and heroic book ….Wilkerson has taken on one of the most important demographic upheavals of the past century—a phenomenon whose dimensions and significance have eluded many a scholar—and told it through the lives of three people no one has ever heard of….This is narrative nonfiction, lyrical and tragic and fatalist. The story exposes; the story moves; the story ends. What Wilkerson urges, finally, isn’t argument at all; it’s compassion. Hush, and listen.”
–Jill Lepore, The New Yorker
“Scholarly but very readable, this book, for all its rigor, is so absorbing, it should come with a caveat: Pick it up only when you can lose yourself entirely.”
―O, The Oprah Magazine
“An astonishing work….Isabel Wilkerson delivers!...With the precision of a surgeon, Wilkerson illuminates the stories of bold, faceless African-Americans who transformed cities and industries with their hard work and determination to provide their children with better lives.”
"A truly auspicious debut....The author deftly intersperses [her characters'] stories with short vignettes about other individuals and consistently provides the bigger picture without interrupting the flow of the narrative…Wilkerson’s focus on the personal aspect lends her book a markedly different, more accessible tone. Her powerful storytelling style, as well, gives this decades-spanning history a welcome novelistic flavor. An impressive take on the Great Migration." ―Kirkus, Starred Review
“Profound, necessary and an absolute delight to read.” --Toni Morrison
“The Warmth of Other Suns is a sweeping and yet deeply personal tale of America’s hidden 20th century history - the long and difficult trek of Southern blacks to the northern and western cities. This an epic for all Americans who want to understand the making of our modern nation.” --Tom Brokaw
“A seminal work of narrative nonfiction…You will never forget these people.” --Gay Talese
“With compelling prose and considered analysis, Isabel Wilkerson has given us a landmark portrait of one of the most significant yet little-noted shifts in American history: the migration of African-Americans from the Jim Crow South to the cities of the North and West. It is a complicated tale, with an infinity of implications for questions of race, power, politics, religion, and class--implications that are unfolding even now. This book will be long remembered, and savored.” --Jon Meacham
“Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns is an American masterpiece, a stupendous literary success that channels the social sciences as iconic biography in order to tell a vast story of a people's reinvention of itself and of a nation---the first complete history of the Great Black Migration from start to finish, north, east, west.” --David Levering Lewis
“Isabel Wilkerson’s book is a masterful narrative of the rich wisdom and deep courage of a great people. Don’t miss it!” --Cornel West