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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 (2924 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Kizombo L. Kalumbula 12-31-16
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    "Amazing book"

    This is a must read to all who are interested in understanding the reliance of the human person. I was inspired and saw my own immigrant drive in the three protagonists in this story. Lesson learned from listening to this book is to never give up on one's dream.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sammie 12-30-16
    Sammie 12-30-16 Member Since 2016
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    "a must read for African Americans!"

    Story is very long, however very informative. . A must read for African-Americans. Very informative.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 12-27-16
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    "A new perspective"

    Fascinating story of a massive migration that I never knew about. Historically informative and accurate.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    dragoness' utterances 12-27-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Brilliant History, Biography and Analysis"

    Racism is not the theme and it is laid embarrassingly bare. Ms. Wilkerson tracks the Black Southern Migration North from about WWI to the 1970s. She selected three people from her years of interviewing "migrants" ( a term the millions of economic refugees would deny.) Families and individuals followed the route of the "Underground Railroad --Illinois Central and the highways West.

    We come to know three people and their families, sorrows and relative triumphs as she switches the chronicles from one to the other. The lives are painful but beautifully storied.

    The eye opener here is that The Civil War continued deep into the 1970s ..People in the South were beholding and continued in de facto subjugation as Jim Crowers perpetrated mundane and sometime capital offenses with impunity.

    We are carried into the lives of sharecroppers turned factory and domestic workers. Dr. Bob ..jitterbugs his way to success in Los Ángeles propelling his daughters into "society." The Harlem based porter plus the rails for decades without a promotion and his children are swallowed by the City. Ida Mae is a cherished matriarch who had flee to save her life. Watching these individuals carefully close all accounts and leave for the "promised land" is an adventure that gains more power when seen in the context of the millions who made the leap.

    Should be on every list of Contemporary American History..

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Marisol LEHIGH ACRES, FLORIDA, United States 12-22-16
    Marisol LEHIGH ACRES, FLORIDA, United States 12-22-16 Member Since 2012
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    "Humanly depicted immigration stories"

    The life stories of this immigrants can be found in so many others from different countries. Wilkerson makes a great narrative of this social phenomenon.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Gallegos 12-22-16
    S. Gallegos 12-22-16
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    "We owe you"

    Thanks for this remarkable blend of personal narrative and sociological inquiry to give modern readers an accurate sense this migration and its meaning for our nation and history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chi77 12-19-16
    Chi77 12-19-16
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    "A must read!"

    This work represents an incredibly academic and deeply spiritual journey into an often forgotten part of American history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roger Moore DC Area 12-16-16
    Roger Moore DC Area 12-16-16 Member Since 2017

    RogMJ007

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    "Epic story, Beautifully Written and Presented"
    Where does The Warmth of Other Suns rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    One of the best books I've ever listened to. The stories were compelling and the historic detail made me crave more information.


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

    The frustration of George when he tried to get people to come together and demand more money for picking oranges. Instead of supporting him, they turned on him. That hurt but I've heard and/or seen it within my own life.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The moments when George and Ida May left the south. I felt the tension and fright they all had during those tense moments.


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

    The indignities that many blacks suffered made me very angry. It brought segregation to a level where I personally felt the inhumanity that lived with throughout their lives.


    Any additional comments?

    This needs to be taught in schools throughout the country.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rich Fitzgerald 12-14-16 Member Since 2017
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    "Must Read"

    Amazing stories about the great migration. It helps me to appreciate the road ahead to know others fought through way more difficult times.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MonicaMcClain 12-14-16 Member Since 2016
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    "Exceptional. Intriguing. Informative. Heartfelt."

    EXCEPTIONAL because of the vast time period covered. INTRIGUING writing style. INFORMATIVE history of the America's Great Migration. HEARTFELT personal account of the black human existence.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • williams
    7/6/17
    Overall
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    Story
    "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
    Overall
    Performance
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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<br/>


    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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