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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

4.6 (2783 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Byron McMillan 11-05-16 Member Since 2016
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    "Truly Epic"

    Remarkable book.Helped put my own life in context and be proud of black people's overcoming and achievement.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CAC 10-30-16
    CAC 10-30-16

    CAC

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    "Extraordinary book, splendid narration"

    A beautifully written, remarkably researched account of a phenomenon Wilkerson both describes and redefines--the great migration that transformed twentieth century America. I will never see my country or my two hometowns, LA and,for the last 17 years, Chicago the same way again. Wilkerson is a humanist in the best, most transformative sense of that word. I'm grateful.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debbie Tinley Park, IL, US 10-29-16
    Debbie Tinley Park, IL, US 10-29-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Wow! Loved every page, the story and the education"

    This is a story needing to be told. The migration of blacks in America from the south to the north, as told post-Civil War through the 1990s. Inequality persisted long after the abolition of slavery, both south and north, as told through 3 characters. The depth of detail is needed to fully appreciate this part of American history and to provoke more thought about today's race relations and struggles. Performed extremely well, what a great audible book !

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gail 10-27-16
    Gail 10-27-16

    I'm a semi-retired professional, filling my time now as an adjunct instructor of computer applications for Clark State Community College.

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    "Mandatory Reading"

    This is one of those rare books that compel one to feel everyone should listen to or read it. It provides so much information, history and understanding. It should be required reading in schools and on everyone's bookshelf. I was born in the north in the 40's, lived through the race riots and civil rights marches, yet had no idea of what it was really all about, until this book

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DeShone 10-27-16
    DeShone 10-27-16 Member Since 2016
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    "soul stirring! beyond moving! all homes must have"

    should be required reading in our nations high schools and colleges...the migrants of this country are the most resourceful and resilient people in America... more stories from people who over came a broken and terrible system need to be told and heard...thank you Isabel Wilkerson for this history lesson, that will never be under valued or lost!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Baltimore, MD United States 10-25-16
    Amazon Customer Baltimore, MD United States 10-25-16 Member Since 2015

    mcgyvr1996

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    "Beautifully intimate history lesson"

    The story of the great migration told through the eyes of three participants made a huge story very intimate, emotional and compelling. I'll be reading this again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ERICA L. TALLEY 10-18-16 Member Since 2014
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    "The book set me on fire!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Warmth of Other Suns to be better than the print version?

    This is one of those books that is good no matter how you experience it.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Warmth of Other Suns?

    Hearing the stories of celebrated African Americans like Jesse Owens and understanding what it took for him to overcome, was one of many awe inspiring elements of this story.


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

    No


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    This is a collection of stories that will never fade from your conscious. The fullness of the data and the wholeness of the characters, make this one of those books that will be referenced now and forever.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    HLSC1963 10-13-16
    HLSC1963 10-13-16
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    "Fascinating, sobering, harrowing and inspiring"

    I loved listening to the beautiful southern accents of the story teller and was very moved by each of the three life stories.

    I was horrified by the fear under which the black people of the southern states lived for so long after the emancipation of slaves ... and by the hatred, savagery and inhumanity of the white ruling class.

    I was also a horrified by my ignorance of it.

    What a history of suffering, misery and shame.

    What courage and fortitude the migrants showed (and also, in a different way, those that stayed).

    I can hardly decide which would have been worse: to reach the end of your life knowing you had lived by oppressing, abusing and mistreating others, or to have lived as a victim of such appalling injustice.

    I found Ida May's life the most beautiful and inspiring of those 3 remarkable lives. And the book makes me look hard at how I behave and treat others in my own life.

    I want to be more like Aida May! :)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R Bishop CLEVELAND, OHIO, US 10-02-16
    R Bishop CLEVELAND, OHIO, US 10-02-16 Member Since 2016
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    "Required reading for every black American."

    Thank you to Isabel Wilkerson for telling our truth. I saw myself and everyone before me in the stories. It satisfied my heart and soul.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    lara jankel 09-30-16
    lara jankel 09-30-16
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    "Incredible"

    It's impossible to fully understand America without appreciating this aspect of its history. A fascinating book, brilliantly researched, beautifully read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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