Literary Quote of the Month

“For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences,” … Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Memoir Monday... The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

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

Isabel Wilkerson interviewed more than 1200 people "whose lives had followed the same basic pattern: early years in the South followed by relocation in either the North or the West." Her research & writing of The Warmth of Other Suns, took her almost 20 years and follows "the 55 year migration of black Americans across their own country". She culls from all those rich wealth of interviews, those of three rural Southerners, whose stories will bring life to The Warmth of Other Suns... Here's what the publishers say:

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.

This book has made more than one "Best Book of 2010" list, and with all the amazing buzz surrounding this book, for good reason. Just from reading the beginning excerpt of the book, I was immediately drawn into the lives of Ida Mae Gladney, George Starling, and Robert Foster, whose stories Isabel Wilkerson opens the book with. Some have wondered why The Warmth of Other Suns did not garner a nomination for the National Book Award, but awards aren't everything. This isn't really a memoir in the "traditional" sense, but I felt that the stories of Ida Mae Gladney, George Starling and Robert Foster demanded to be acknowledged as something more than history, as their stories, their lives, make up so much of The Warmth of Other Suns. This is an important book and I'm looking forward to reading it! *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

5 comments:

Pam said...

Oh this looks great! It also looks like it will make a great present for my dad and a few other family members. Glad you enjoyed it!

Suzanne said...

Hi Pam!
This had made so many "lists", I decided to check it out. Little did I know how many black American's left the south because of discrimination and prejudice. From the little I read, I really enjoyed the authors writing.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This sounds so wonderful; I'd love to read it.

Anonymous said...

I would really love to read this book.
I am very interested in the history of these migrations.


CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

Sharon said...

Wow, this sounds like an interesting read! Thanks for the intro, it is a new to me book.

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