A book you’ll want to read

The Warmth of Other Suns:The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson, was published about a week ago, and has received nothing less than spectacular reviews.  The “Great Migration” was the northward movement of blacks from the South, seeking a better life, starting after the First World War.  We still see traces of that migration here in Chicago, with much of the South Side reflecting where those migrants settled.  Wilkerson’s story is told through the experience of three individuals; all the reviews laud its combination of scholarship and intimacy.

Wilkerson was formerly the New York Times bureau chief in Chicago, and is now a professor at Boston University.  While in Chicago, she won a Pulitzer Prize, the first for an African-American woman in journalism.  I haven’t yet read her book (you can bet I will soon), but given the fascinating but relatively unexplored subject and the book’s rave reviews, I’ll bet she’s in for another Pulitzer—for general nonfiction.

From the New York Times review:

“The Warmth of Other Suns” is Wilkerson’s first book. (Its title is borrowed from the celebrated black writer Richard Wright, who fled Jim Crow Mississippi in the 1920s to feel the warmth of those other suns.) 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 as to land the author a future place on Oprah’s couch.

The Times has published two other pieces on this book: an appreciation by Janet Maslin and an account by Charles McGrath of its writing.

Other rave reviews come from The Wall Street Journal, Barnes and Nobel.com, and The Chicago Tribune.

5 Comments

  1. Posted September 13, 2010 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    *sigh* another one for the top of the wobbling stack…. I don’t read a lot of fiction (unless it’s Austen, or my mother sends it). Historical fiction, though, “I, mm, very like!” That reminds me of a book my mom sent titled “Cane River” by Lalita Tademy (former VP of Sun Microsystems), historical fiction based on the true stories of the women in her family. A very well-written page-turner.

  2. Posted September 14, 2010 at 5:21 am | Permalink

    This does sound like an excellent book. I don’t know very much about this part of history, but it seems to be an important part of what shaped present-day America.

  3. Posted September 14, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the heads-up. I’ll have to read that (eventually). This is something we didn’t learn about in 4th grade in Alabama…

  4. Posted September 14, 2010 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    There was a good interview with Wilkerson on Fresh Air yesterday.


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] especially keen on The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, which I highlighted here in September and will soon be getting from the U of C library (I’ve run out of shelf space […]

  2. […] September I highlighted a new book by journalist Isabel Wilkerson: The Warmth of Other Suns (subtitled The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration).  I […]

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