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The Warmth of Other Suns Audiobook

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

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.
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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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  •  
    Angela Baugher 04-13-15 Member Since 2014
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    "extraordinary history lesson!"

    this is an amazing and untold history of black migration from the jim crow south with a desperate dream of true equality, which they didn't find and struggled against all odds against them, with white america continued to systematically deny them their right to grow, to be educated, and to be treated with respect, and to be happy.
    i strongly recommend this to history students, and to ALL white people. You haven't been told have the truth of the matter and you haven't lived it. expand your knowledge and many things will make more sense.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    lisa 04-11-15
    lisa 04-11-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Outstanding!"

    I think I went through every imaginable and unimaginable emotion as the story and the voice of the migration was told! I highly recommend this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cateena Powers 04-10-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Southern Exposure"

    Wilkerson truly captured every reason for the migration of Negros from the south to the North and West. I was riveted by the intricate detail that showed the impact on all aspects of society, business trade and family relationships during this great period of time. I believe this is a 'must read' for those who want to understand family history AND for those who want to understand race relations as well!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane VA 04-09-15
    Diane VA 04-09-15

    Diane

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    "Captivating"

    If you've ever wondered about the source racial discord and why it lingers still, this offers insight from a unique perspective following the lives of three migrants from the south.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara 04-05-15
    Barbara 04-05-15
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    "Life changing narrative!"

    I really enjoyed listening to this book and learning the history of my people and the history of my parents who migrated from Texas! This book should be required reading/listening for this country!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Portland, OR, United States 03-24-15
    Mary Portland, OR, United States 03-24-15 Member Since 2014
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    "What a panoramic view of the great migration!"

    I loved the way Wilkerson told the story in historical terms and also through the lives of the three people she wrote about. I felt as though I knew these three to an extent and it made me want to learn more about them. The difficulties these people went through to leave the South seem very much like what one reads about those who migrated to America from Europe. They didn't have as far to go geographically but perhaps as far or farther culturally.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lucita 03-17-15
    Lucita 03-17-15 Member Since 2016
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    "excellent lessons"

    this is a long one. .. difficult to hear sometimes but very enlightening. ...takes you from slavery in the south to migration up north changed my way of understanding this migration eye opening

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth 03-06-15
    Elizabeth 03-06-15
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    "A Revelation"

    Every American should read this book.
    The stories of the three main real life people tell a story that has been largely forgotten but crucial to what our nation has become. The struggle isn't over, just different now.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gail 02-26-15
    Gail 02-26-15 Member Since 2012

    Love audible and books.

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    "Redundant Suns"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    This book is an education on the black migration , for that reason I would recommend this book. However I would warn the reader/ listener that the book is extremely redundant!


    Any additional comments?

    This would have been a much better book if the auther did not jump around so much in the story telling. The era's skipped around as did the stories of the 3 people that she interviewed for the book. The book is a weath of knowledge if you can for go the organization of the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brian 02-17-15
    Brian 02-17-15 Member Since 2013
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    "MASTERFUL!"

    Like many, I saw myself within the boundaries of this exquisite book. I did not want it to end. It doesn't, of course.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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