The Warmth of Other Suns: by Isabel Wilkerson


Author: Isabel Wilkerson

Title: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

Genre: Popular Narrative Non Fiction

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 640

Geographical Setting: The United States of America

Time Period: 20th Century (mostly from 1935 to 1999)

Plot Summary: This is the story of six million black Americans who courageously chose to leave, or escape, the Jim Crow South and live in Northern or Western parts of the U.S. It is a story of how many of these individuals thrived in the North despite barriers including widespread racism and competitive urban living. Moreover, it is the narrative of three such migrants and their detailed life histories . . . Ida Mae and her husband fled the South in the 1930’s and settled into a Chicago home where they balanced blue collar work, family, religion, and time for Southern cooking and hospitality. George escaped the South in the 1940’s and did his best to establish a home in Harlem with his family, but his work with the railroad required routine travel back to the South. Robert journeyed out of the South in the 1950’s and built his new life in Los Angeles as a family man, respected surgeon, and a hopeless gambler. As Ida Mae, George, and Robert tell their unique stories of life during the Great Migration, an underlying shared experience surfaces.

Subject Headings: Rural-urban Migration, Migration Internal, United States, History, 20th Century, African Americans, Black Americans, America’s Great Migration, Great Black Migration, Racism

Appeal: builds in intensity, folksy, candid, humorous, insightful, sobering, detailed, factual, multicultural characters, character-centered, multiple plots, socio-political issue-oriented, thought-provoking, hopeful, page-turner

3 terms that best describe this book: a story–that is comprehensive, yet intimate; that reads like fiction, but creatively draws the reader back to its unwavering reality; and that lives up to the title of being epic!

3 Relevant Fiction Works:

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (set during The Great Depression, The Joads, an Oklahoma farming family stricken by the Dust Bowl migrate to California, but are faced with further adversity)

To Help by Kathryn Stockett (explores racism in the South during the Jim Crow era and is humorous with likeable female characters whose situations at home, at work, and in the public arena are sobering)

The Fortunate Pilgrim by Mario Puzo (a tale of an Italian immigrant woman in America who came with family, love of her homeland, and the courage to persevere as her traditional values are challenged)

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works:

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin (a comprehensive, yet intimate history of Abraham Lincoln’s personal and political life in the context of friends, rivals, and an America divided by racism)

Branch Rickey by Jimmy Breslin (a biography focused on baseball’s Hall of Famer Branch Rickey and his recruit of Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940’s—an act that defied racial norms)

Fly Away by Peter Rutkoff and William Scott (a 20th century history of how black Southerners who migrated North modernized and shaped American society while maintaining ancestral traditions)

–Jeanne Jesernik

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