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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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  •  
    Kojo 02-17-17
    Kojo 02-17-17 Member Since 2017
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    "An in-depth examination of an overlooked part of history."

    Like the author, I grew up in Washington, DC. So, I knew of the people who'd left the south (S. Carolina in my grandmother's case) to come north. But I hadn't realized how MANY black people left the south, how FAR they'd gone across the country, or how widespread their impact had been.

    I remember seeing an interview with Snoop Dogg where he mentioned his mother's family coming from Mississippi. I realized the black migration had more of an impact than I thought. The stories and details in this book helped me fill in the gaps that existed about something that greatly impacted my family and my own life. It gave me a new perspective on what my grandmother went through so my mother, aunts, uncles & cousins could all have better lives.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    colette m. levinstein 02-12-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Must Read!"

    This is an amazing book of epicness regarding an under discussed portion of African American history. This documentary is a clear , unbiased review of the history of blacks in this country and if your AA or anyone who wants understand the world the Southern black who traveled to the North doing the unyielding racist south and understand the hidden prejudices of the North, it
    is must be read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Amazon Customer 02-11-17
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    "MUST READ!!!"

    LOVED IT!!! NO WORDS CAN ADEQUATELY EXPRESS. THANK YOU FOR THIS AMAZING TRAVEL THROUGH TIME.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    bellgirl San Diego, CA United States 02-10-17
    bellgirl San Diego, CA United States 02-10-17 Member Since 2013
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    "Brilliant!"

    Brilliant accounting of the journey north and west by southern blacks. Personal recollections bring history to life. Following three individuals' personal stories was captivating. What a great history lesson...to include events of my hometown/current home, East St. Louis, IL.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Amazon Customer Philly 02-10-17
    Amazon Customer Philly 02-10-17 Member Since 2015
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    "Movingly difficult truths"

    This was a movingly difficult truth to listen to and at times a break was needed to digest to horrific treatment of a people solely because of their visible difference. Thank you to Ms. Wilkerson for all the work put forth. I am forever enlightened and pray for a real growth in this yet to be united states of america.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Florence Nightingale md usa 02-09-17
    Florence Nightingale md usa 02-09-17 Member Since 2016
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    "Bravo"
    Would you listen to The Warmth of Other Suns again? Why?

    Probably not due to its length although It was very well done.


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

    Ida May Brandon Gladney's positive attitude through loss after loss. Dr. Foster's harrowing trip out west and George's battles with the bosses of the orange groves.


    Which character – as performed by Robin Miles and Ken Burns (introduction) – was your favorite?

    Ida May


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Huh?


    Any additional comments?

    I think this should be required reading for high school students.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Harriett Jameson 02-03-17
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    "Exemplary audiobook: compelling writing and dynamic narrator"

    The best audiobook I have listened to period. Wilkerson's writing is beautiful, poignant, and incredibly interesting.

    The narrator's performance is stunning. I was amazed that I kept returning to the book for the 20+ hours it takes to listen to it and was always delighted, never bored.

    Highly recommend.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    AJC 02-01-17
    AJC 02-01-17
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    "Incredible Stories!"

    This book was soooooo good. I'm definitely going to invest in the hard copy. The information is too valuable not to have on hand.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Fannie's Place 01-22-17
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    "An intriguing story."

    I loved this story. my attention was held captive my each of the main characters and their life stories. I am so grateful that the author took great care to define the characters personalities , and history. I especially liked the historical and geographical back drop that weaves throughout the stories.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Christal 01-20-17
    Christal 01-20-17 Member Since 2015
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    "Phenomenal!"

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book!! The author's story telling is engaging and I was always excited to hear more about the three people she was following. The statistics, details, accounts, poems, stories, etc woven through this book are beautiful and so helpful in understanding the times and our history. I appreciate the authors details. I also greatly appreciated and enjoyed the narrator- it made the story very real.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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