Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

And finally, my reflection on the book that I never wanted to end.

With the turn of each page, I wished there was one to replace it. The book was written to document the Great Migration, when approximately six million African Americans fled the South to live in other parts of the country. But it captures so much more than that.

I did not understand the enormity of this movement, until I read this statistic: Before the Great Migration only 10% of African Americans lived outside of the South. After the Great Migration, approximately 47% did. As the author so eloquently stated, “ It was the first big step the nations servant class ever took without asking.”

Thoroughly researched and impeccably pulled together, The Warmth of Other Suns contains more African American history than I learned in all of my K-12 years combined. While lost in this book, I came to admire, cheer for, and feel for the 3 individuals whose stories are beautifully woven into the overarching theme. With each of them sometimes joyfully and sometimes painfully reliving the details of their own decisions to make the migration, it was not possible for me to put this book down before knowing how their lives ultimately turned out.

This book highlights the efforts put forth to end the migration and the rude awakening once migrants learned that even after the journey, things would not be easy. Those making the trek by train were free to move between cars for colored passengers and non-colored passengers only after mid-trip, when the lines dividing the North and the South were crossed. Those driving, after determining they were too tired to drive any more, were forced to fall in line behind other cars along the side of the road to rest, because motels were not made available for them to sleep.

After reading that some individuals were brought to tears while recalling the details of their journey, my threshold for empathizing increased 1000 fold. Something about the expression, “Just get over it” no longer sits right with me. People do not harbor pain with memories for 50 years because they can just get over it.

Even if I read another 5000 books in my lifetime, when it’s all said and done, The Warmth of Other Suns will for sure make my list of the best books I've ever read.

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Jennifer Hartling said...

An absolutely stunning book. I had NO idea. I learned a lot and like you I didn't want this one to end.

Great review :D

Leslie said...

Your review is on the money. The Warmth of Other Suns is a stone classic. It has been two years since I read it; it may be time for a re-read! And Isabel Wilkerson put so much into making it thoroughly excellent and captivating, that I look forward to reading more works by her. What about you?

Shannon @ Reading Has Purpose said...

Absolutely! She made my list of authors that I hope are writing another book. Although I wonder if she can top this!

Zora Toni Maya said...

Definitely my favorite historical text, hands down. A life changing read, for sure.