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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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  •  
    Keith Washington, DC, United States 11-23-16
    Keith Washington, DC, United States 11-23-16 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    31
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    "Intense, scholarly, epic, emotional, penetrating"

    I listened to this book after hearing Ms. Wilkerson'a interview on NPR. She was so knowledgeable and insightful that I had to veer away from my usual business and entrepreneurial listened to this moving and informative monumental literary achievement. I found myself reflecting on my parent's efforts to migrate to Washington,DC from the south, pursue and complete their college education, such that I and my sister could become comfortably middle class, college educated, and world traveled. I was moved to the verge of tears by the description of the shear inhuman savagery of the Jim Crow system. We survived pure evil. That profound evil is transparently hidden by the currently en vogue terminology "southern traditions". This book deeply affected me.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth 10-23-17
    Elizabeth 10-23-17 Member Since 2016
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    "Terrific Read"

    This thoughtful, well researched, and well written book is a must read for anyone interested in US history. Robin Miles does an excellent job as the narrator.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gainor 10-22-17
    Gainor 10-22-17
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    76
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    "I learned a lot"

    Amazing research on a critical part of American history I knew very little about told vis the lives of three families. A worthy read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jane-o 10-22-17
    jane-o 10-22-17
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    "Definitely worthy of the Pulitzer "

    A+ in every way. Should be read or listened to by every American. Looking forward to her next book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt Besser 10-10-17
    Matt Besser 10-10-17 Member Since 2016
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    "American history we never learned in school"

    This book revealed so much to me that I would otherwise not have known. In life, I've had a few black/white interactions that left me confused and wishing to rewind/redo with a better outcome. I now understand WHY. Ms. Wilkerson: Kudos! Robin Miles: You can read to me anytime. Thank You!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David W. Brown 09-24-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Must read to understand the Jim Crow Democrats"

    Amazing history lesson. The subjects are inspirational in how they moved forward in spite of how the system worked against them. Slavery was horrible and this book tells the story of what the African-Americans of this generation endured, and in many ways, how it was just as bad.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth Westbrook 09-22-17 Member Since 2016
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    "Critically Important Story and Research"

    This should be required reading for all Americans to more fully understand how our racist history continues to divide us by class and opportunity. The book is both illuminating and engaging using the stories of three participants in the Great Migration as an anecdotal backdrop for in-depth factual research.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Edward Wigley Texas, USA 09-22-17
    Edward Wigley Texas, USA 09-22-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Worth the investment "

    I absolutely loved this book. I've been fascinated with Black history and the civil rights Era. I thought I knew the history of slavery and the struggle through Jim Crow leading to the civil rights legislation of the 60's. This book opened my eyes to an important part of the history that I really never considered. I'm so glad I heard about this story and was able to enjoy it. Educational and enlightenment are the words that come to my mind trying to explain my final thoughts.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Billie Braithwaite-jones New York 09-21-17
    Billie Braithwaite-jones New York 09-21-17 Member Since 2013
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    "You will be richer by reading this book!"

    A vital story that needed to be told and is richly told here in all of its historical and literary brilliance. Every American should read this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chickpix 09-17-17
    Chickpix 09-17-17 Member Since 2017
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    "MAGNIFICENT "

    For years I avoided this book simply because of its length. What a fool I was! Once I started I could not stop. It is a masterpiece, a rare combination of humanity, statistics and suspense. Beautifully written and elegantly narrated.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Mr. Benjamin Rowlinson
    London, UK
    9/27/17
    Overall
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    "Lives up to its Ken Burns introduction…"

    …in sounding like the transcript of some lightweight TV documentary.

    Slight, unashamedly repetetive, frequently breaks out into insufferable insipidity. Subject deserves so much more. Like it hadn't suffered sufficient injustice as it was. Next time I catch myself inclined to spend a credit on some "Winner of THE PULITZER PRIZE," I'll know better.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • williams
    7/6/17
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    "Enjoyed every single minute"

    So powerful, so moving, so life affirming
    Outstanding narrator brought everyone to life - -

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Dr. E. Draper
    Richmond, Surrey UK
    1/27/16
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    "A story that should be universally known"
    If you could sum up The Warmth of Other Suns in three words, what would they be?

    Erudite Revealing Captivating


    What did you like best about this story?

    I have been aware of the Great Migration for a few years but found it difficult to get any details. This book not only gives those details but does it in a way that brings this time and the motivations behind it to life


    Have you listened to any of Robin Miles and Ken Burns (introduction) ’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    No


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    The Great Migration, 70 years of black people's search for freedom within USA


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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