Not quite a year ago on our California road trip we listened to Wilkerson’s astonishing work, Caste. It was one of my favorite reads last year. And now I’ve discovered Wilkerson’s other work (2010), a look at a remarkable time in American history that nobody really has talked about or written about. Here is my book review The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.
You don’t need to read Caste to understand the story being told in The Warmth of Other Suns, but I do recommend both books very highly. The remarkable years of research Wilkerson undertook for both books is staggering. But because of this attention to detail the reader is transported to another time in American history, the great migration of blacks from the south to points north and west during Jim Crowe.
The Great Migration
Beginning in about 1915 and continuing into the 1970’s, about six million black American’s, slave descendants, left the south in search of something safer and better. Using the routes most accessible to southern Negroes at the time, the great migration brought thousands to New York, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee and Los Angeles.
Years of Research
Wilkerson interviewed more than a 1000 people for this book and dove deep into documents and records never before used to tell this story. With her research and writing talent she brings to the reader three incredibly brave real people;
Ida Mae Gladney a sharecropper who left Mississippi in 1937 for a better life in Chicago where she lived the rest of her years.
Robert (Pershing) Foster who left Louisiana in 1953 despite his success as a doctor but discrimination kept him from practicing in the way he desired. Instead he traveled by car to Los Angeles where he would become wealthy and successful but always feeling inadequate.
George Starling who left Florida in 1945 to keep from being lynched and ended up in Harlem. Brilliant Starling wanted a college degree but he would spend his life as a porter on the trains but would make peace with his choices.
The New American History
Following these three individuals Wilkerson finds a way for the reader to feel all the slights, sadness, danger, injustice as well as happiness in these characters, their stories and all the people who they touch.
Read this book. Open yourself to new American history we were never taught. Wilkerson is a writer for our times.
*****Five stars for The Warmth of Other Suns – The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson.
Read last week’s review of The Garden of Small Beginnings
My current read Of Women and Salt
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