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The Warmth of Other Suns Audiobook

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

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Audible Editor Reviews

Narrator Robin Miles has a heroic task at hand as she performs The Warmth of Other Suns by Pulitzer Prize-winner Isabel Wilkerson. Part oral history, part scholarly analysis, and part the author’s own family experience, the book tells in unsparing, vivid detail why African-Americans migrated in huge numbers from the southern states to points north and west during the years 1915 to 1970. Recalling what can only be labeled a shameful period in American history, The Warmth of Other Suns chronicles the racist bondage under which African-Americans lived, years after being legally emancipated.

Miles lets us hear the anger, exasperation, fear, and extraordinary nobility of three individuals whose stories serve as the narrative of the book. Ida May Gladney, George Starling, and Dr. Robert Foster were not players on the national Civil Rights scene, but their stories typify the lives of millions of African-Americans who found themselves virtually, if not literally, imprisoned in the American South. Terror is palpable as Miles recounts how young Mrs. Gladney defiantly challenged a night-time lynch mob at her family’s door. George Starling’s anger after 50 years is clipped, short, and intense as Miles relates the ludicrous travel protocols African-Americans had to abide by when simply trying to enjoy their right to travel freely. Finally, it is Dr. Robert Foster’s soul-crushing drive across the Southwest, attempting to flee the encumbrances of Southern racism and merely wanting a place to sleep after a long day’s drive, where Miles triumphs in capturing the staggering weight that racism layered on perpetrators and victims alike. She depicts Dr. Foster’s exhausted, emotional breakdown with compassion and, it seems, the weariness of all fellow travelers on this particular road.

Wilkerson offers her family’s personal experiences as illustrations of the hold that the South maintained on so many people, no matter how ill-treated they were. Miles captures the joyous midnight revelries of Wilkerson’s grandmother and her neighbors, who would gather on warm Georgia summer nights to await the once-a-season blooming of the grandmother’s highly-prized cereus flowers.

Miles also leads listeners through the roughest of Wilkerson’s scenes, allowing all to grasp the absolute horror that could develop during a simple errand, a normal work day, or a hoped-for family outing. She crisply and coolly recounts the laws — written and unwritten — that kept African-Americans bound to servitude in the South. It is American history unvarnished, needing to be told, heard, and understood. The depth and breadth of Wilkerson’s research and her ability to tell stories, while also relating facts and figures, makes The Warmth of Other Suns a compelling experience. Miles lends a talented voice to Wilkerson’s words, imbuing Gladney, Starling, Foster, and many others described in the book with the respect and dignity they have long deserved. —Carole Chouinard

Publisher's Summary

National Book Critics Circle Award, Nonfiction, 2011

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 interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to previously untapped 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 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 state 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 medicine, becoming the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful career that allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.

Wilkerson brilliantly captures her subjects’ 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 their new 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 work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic.

Bonus: In partnership with Audible and Playtone, the television and film producer behind the award-winning series Band of Brothers, John Adams, and The Pacific, this audiobook includes an original introduction, written and read by acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns. For more from Audible and Playtone, click here.

©2010 Isabel Wilkerson (P)2011 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“A landmark piece of nonfiction . . . sure to hold many surprises for readers of any race or experience….A mesmerizing book that warrants comparison to The Promised Land, Nicholas Lemann’s study of the Great Migration’s early phase, and Common Ground, J. Anthony Lukas’s great, close-range look at racial strife in Boston….[Wilkerson’s] closeness with, and profound affection for, her subjects reflect her deep immersion in their stories and allow the reader to share that connection.” (Janet Maslin, The New York Times)

The Warmth of Other Suns is a brilliant and stirring epic, the first book to cover the full half-century of the Great Migration… Wilkerson combines impressive research…with great narrative and literary power. Ms. Wilkerson does for the Great Migration what John Steinbeck did for the Okies in his fiction masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath; she humanizes history, giving it emotional and psychological depth.” (John Stauffer, Wall Street Journal)

"The Warmth of Other Suns is epic in its reach and in its structure. Told in a voice that echoes the magic cadences of Toni Morrison or the folk wisdom of Zora Neale Hurston’s collected oral histories, Wilkerson’s book pulls not just the expanse of the migration into focus but its overall impact on politics, literature, music, sports — in the nation and the world." (Lynell George, Los Angeles Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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Performance
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  •  
    Doreen 07-19-15
    Doreen 07-19-15
    ratings
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    25
    8
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    "Profound."

    Long, epic, profound, disturbing, enlightening. Highly recommend. Interesting in light of events today, which sadly look like events of the reprehensible past. We must do better.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    alithia 07-13-15
    alithia 07-13-15
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    1
    1
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    "Audible is awesome"

    I was skeptical about using an app that reads for me, but using audible was a great step out of my comfort zone. I read faster than the recorded person but I am able to read it at times when its not possible like in the car or on public transportation. i was still able to make notes in my books too which was a big plus for me. i wish there were more academic books. the selection is still nice for the most part.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gracie Graham 07-10-15
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    "Awesome book!!"

    It is difficult to describe the many ways this book impacted me. My emotions were torn between anger, sadness, joy, pride, love as I read the many different experiences described in such brutal detail.
    I recalled my own childhood memories, being a northern born child of southern migrants. The summer trip to the birthplaces of my parents. I understood better some of the events/behaviors that occurred.
    I was reading this book when the massacre occurred at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston SC. I was compelled to go there. I stood in front of that Church during the funeral of one of the victims and listened to this book.
    I truly believe this book should be mandatory reading in all schools. I'm telling all my friends to read it!
    The author should be proud of her work!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ronicsa 06-25-15
    Ronicsa 06-25-15 Member Since 2014
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    13
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    "Awesome"

    Informative, enlightening and intriguing!! I feel like I know Dr. Foster, George Starling
    and Ida Mae Gladden. This subject was not familiar to me so learned quite a bit.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carli's mom 06-15-15
    Carli's mom 06-15-15

    poohmee777

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    8
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    "Excellent. Very well written."

    Excellent. Well written. Allowed me to see another perspective. Great story combined with historical facts.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen 06-12-15
    Stephen 06-12-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Phenomenal"

    A book every American should read; perfect for High School and College American History. I plan on re-reading much of this.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wendy K. 06-10-15
    Wendy K. 06-10-15 Member Since 2014
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    53
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    "Just amazing."
    What made the experience of listening to The Warmth of Other Suns the most enjoyable?

    The narration was impeccable and moving. The stories are profound. This book provides such illumination on the current state of race relations in the US, making it personal and relatable to anyone. This is a must read.The combination of the writing and the narration puts you right in the moment, right in the heads of the people who had to make tough choices and endure hardships beyond the imaginations of many. It gives voice to the people who made the best choices they could for themselves and their families, but whose voices have been neglected and unheard. This book gives them their voice.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    lina 06-05-15
    lina 06-05-15
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    4
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    "Breathtaking."

    So beautiful and simply required reading for all Americans. It is the best sort of popular history, and so well performed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Cross 05-30-15
    Karen Cross 05-30-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Exceptional!"

    One of the best passionately narrated audio book I've ever listened to...as if I were there. Kudos.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sean 05-27-15
    Sean 05-27-15 Member Since 2015
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    2
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    "Compassionate and revealing!"

    A certain dignity is shared that often escapes other stories' telling of blacks making this hopeful trek.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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