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
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.
“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)
The story was wonderful and the narrator was wonderful?
The history of the migration
It brought the story to "life".
No, I don't think I could have listened to it all at once. It took me several days and I enjoyed coming back to it!
informative, moving, thoughtful
Robin's narration of the characters is excellent. There's never a sense of overdoing the accents or dialect. It contributes a lot to the feel of the story.
Yes, but I don't have that many hours in the day. But I did play it every chance I had.
This is a very moving book about things that are so often glossed over in history class. It's too easy to forget the sins of our nation's past and the human struggles that resulted from them.
Alice Roberta Matthews (Keith)
Yes Because the story was told in a way that I could listen and not so painful as other stories on that subject was, but yet it was truthful. It was the experience of the average Afro American who didn't get hanged or caught by the Klan but yet was touched by what was going on around him.
Maybe the story of the sisters the Delaney Sisters
I thought the Dr who drove from to Louisiana to Calif to escape discrimination, and found he could not get a motel in the western States, stood out for me because he didn't expect to feel the discrimination after he left the south.
I have read other books which were more extreme and I could not finish the book. But this one told the story in a way that I could read it again. It could have been my Mother's story or my Father's story or any American Black leaving the South at that time.
I plan to give a copy of this book to my Grandson so he will know how the way was made for him.
A most wonderful example of social history - looking at the story of the great migration through the eyes of three real people, who are portrayed so realistically and compassionately that I really felt sad as their stories drew to a close. The interweaving of the individual stories with the overall history of the migration was very enriching, and I was inspired by these people who took such risks to make something of their lives. Some of the discussion of racial attitudes even of relatively recent times was quite horrifying and it was encouraging to see how far American and other western cultures have come in our acceptance of people of other races and backgrounds. Highly recommended.
A well researched book about the southern migration north by Jim Crow survivors. Excellent performance by Robin Miles portrays each of the voices succinctly.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I really liked hearing the complete stories of the three main characters, as they progressed through life. They were totally different kinds of people, with different goals in life, yet all three wanted a better life for themselves and their families..
I learned much about what I previously had not known regarding many sad truths of the deep south, and even more tragically, the subtle racism that occurred throughout our nation during years of the "great migration".
Listening to this book was like being led through a diorama in my head. The stories were so powerful, the people so real. Absolutely wonderful all around.
I am an artist who uses rich hues and handsome metalic in her abstract leather constructions. I love reading suspense and romance novels.
Oh, how I loved how the author gave us a glimpse into the lives of three individuals who fled the oppressive south to find freedom and success in the northern states. I loved the rhythm, pattern, and unity of the prose-like structure of the writing. I loved the voice of the narrator, how she changed her voice just enough as she adapted to the roles of each individual in the story. I loved how her mellow voice helped make it less painful to listen to the account of change from the horrific, stalemated lives to ones with hopes and promises that instead resulted in mediocrity and racism that was no less, just different.
Though one character did everything right by completing his education and becoming a medical doctor. He was then met with discrimination over and over again for many years until his dream of running a successful practice came true.
Ms. Miles did an excellent job narrating the story. Her voice was soothing as she thoughtfully guided us through the roughest parts of the journey and the challenges that were faced.
Rails of hopes, dreams, and promises
The narrator was engaging and made this a wonderful listening experience.
She speaks clearly, adding sounthern accents to dialogue.
This book was informative without being dull. As well as general information, it follows the life of three 'migrants' from the south to the north. I've listened to it twice so far and will probably go back for a third listen as it is quite detailed. The narration is excellent, although sometimes it does swing from one topic to another a little abruptly. The history of how coloured people were treated is dealt with sympathetically and backed by events of actual people. Real life events are well woven with facts and figures so you don't get saturated with data. Would be a great book for students.
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