• The Warmth of Other Suns

  • The Epic Story of America's Great Migration
  • By: Isabel Wilkerson
  • Narrated by: Robin Miles
  • Length: 22 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (10,518 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

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.

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER
LYNTON HISTORY PRIZE WINNER
HEARTLAND AWARD WINNER
DAYTON LITERARY PEACE PRIZE FINALIST

NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY

The New York Times • USA Today • O: The Oprah Magazine • Amazon • Publishers Weekly • Salon • Newsday • The Daily Beast

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY

The New Yorker • The Washington Post • The Economist • Boston Globe • San Francisco Chronicle • Chicago Tribune • Entertainment Weekly • Philadelphia Inquirer • The Guardian • The Seattle Times • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Christian Science Monitor

From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new 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 historical 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 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 a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.

Wilkerson brilliantly captures their 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 these 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, and riveting 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.

©2010 Isabel Wilkerson (P)2011 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

“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)

Featured Article: The Best Black Audiobook Narrators to Listen to Right Now


A skilled performer has the ability to take the written word to new heights, infusing an author’s work with empathy, warmth, and excitement. And representation matters just as much for audio as it does for any visual medium: listeners should feel and hear themselves in art driven by powerful performers and authentic deliveries. We’ve gathered a few of the best Black audiobook narrators in the business and their can't-miss performances.

What listeners say about The Warmth of Other Suns

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WOW! Thank you....

Absolutely amazing! Heartfelt, emotional, gripping.... This is a wonderful story that was a pleasure to listen to. The narrator, Robin Miles, does a great job transporting the listener and attaching them to the people and places in this book. I have read in other reviews negative comments on the pacing and repetition of phrases. It is absolutely true that the writer will use and reuse a small description say, of someone. I felt that really helped me place everything and jog my memory as to the situation at hand. It does not come off as lazy or unedited but, more conversational. There are a lot of people in these stories with the same names and those recycled descriptions help keep everything straight and helps gain a sense of the characters.
This is an emotional ride, be forewarned. At times I openly laughed, giggled, smiled proudly, cheered, and also got so angry, disappointed, saddened, fist clenchingly pissed off! Needless to say, it is a necessary and enjoyable listen.

57 people found this helpful

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Fascinating little known piece of American History

We took this audio book along with us on our vacation that entailed being in the car for 36 hours. My husband had a particular interest in the subject matter since his parents met after making the African-American migration from Alabama to Ohio in the early 1940's. We were drawn into the stories of the main characters as soon as they appeared on the page. We marveled at the amount and quality of the difficult research that must have gone into the making of the book. Our vacation took us to the rocky mountains and the glorious fall foliage but we couldn't wait to get back in the car so we could listen to more. Our hope is that Ms.Wilkerson doesn't stop here with her documentation of other little know american histories. Also note; Robin Miles was most enjoyable to listen to and had a particular knack for identifying each character with her interpretation of their spoken word. Will listen to again!

111 people found this helpful

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One of the most amazing books I have ever read!

My mom was one of the southern African Americans who made the trip to Boston all those years ago. She never talked about her trip and her reasons for leaving. I never asked. This books brings incredible insight into her story and ultimately my history. I would recommend it to all, but in particular those who wonder what struggles your parents who migrated from the south all those years ago may have been like.

91 people found this helpful

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Great story about American history!

Where does The Warmth of Other Suns rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

One of the best audiobooks I've ever listened to.

What other book might you compare The Warmth of Other Suns to and why?

In the Garden of Beasts. History lessons in the form of a novel really interest me. The reader gets to enjoy a book and an education.

Have you listened to any of Robin Miles’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No.

Any additional comments?

This book was a great lesson in American history. Although it was mostly a sad part of US history it gave the reader some insight into the Black experience.

34 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Superior non-fiction

I can't imagine why a previous reviewer regards this book as poorly written. I beg to differ; it's a masterful work of non-fiction which has been recognized as such by important critics and award committees. If the objection is, I've heard all this before, consider that Isabel Wilkerson isn't necessarily addressing scholars. This book brings a critical component of American history to those of us who have heard little, if anything, about the Great Migration, neglected as it has been in public education. The book is eminently readable, thanks to the novelistic way her three principal characters are brought to life. Their individual stories illustrate the complex motivations, means and outcomes of Great Migration participants. Fascinating, compelling, thought-provoking, and expertly narrated--I can't recommend it highly enough.

131 people found this helpful

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probably would make anyone uncomfortable

What made the experience of listening to The Warmth of Other Suns the most enjoyable?

The realization of just how bleak the lives of post slavery black people were, especially in the south, and also the realization of just how recently this changed.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

The story followed the lives of several of the black people who migrated from the south in the early 20th century. The story seemed a little slow and plodding. Sometimes it was difficult to maintain interest. The story could/should have been told in perhaps 1/2 to 2/3 as much time.

Have you listened to any of Robin Miles’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

This is my first Robin Miles reading

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, it was a story that I listened to for education, not entertainment.

Any additional comments?

I think that this is a worthwhile read for white people such as myself as well as Black people. It is about a shared heritage that none of us can be proud of. For a conscientious white person, it is horrifying to see just how cruel other white people were in the Jim Crow south. I am not sure how a black person might react, but I can imagine a mixture of emotions, some directed at white people for their cruelty, and some directed at themselves and other black people for their helplessness in the face of this cruelty.

I am 62 years old, and it is a bit humbling to realize that many of the abuses that are described were in full force during my lifetime, and indeed that some of this exists today.

I think that this book would be most valuable to young people of all races. This would help them to understand some of why the older generation acts and thinks the way it does.

103 people found this helpful

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Outstanding - Insightful - Transformative.

I will never think of blacks, the South, or race relations between whites and blacks in the same way. Wilkerson has done an outstanding job of bringing to life what it was like for blacks living in the South and what motivated millions of blacks to leave the South for the North, Northeast, and West over a period of decades starting around the time of WWI.

Her story closely follows three individuals, along with short stories of other people and her family, mixed in with a lot of sociological research. Although not a page turner, I was never bored and I learned so much about American History that I never knew well or understood at all. At its heart, this is a story about the impact of 400 years of slavery, abuse, oppression, and discrimination on a group of people. Wilkerson goes way beyond the sorrow, however, to focus on the strength, determination, and grit it took for blacks to survive and to make it out of the South. She is an excellent writer and she never sensationalizes the story nor does she lecture or sermonize.

This is the first time I have listened to Robin Miles narrate a story. She did a top notch job. Her Southern accents for men and women seemed spot on.

43 people found this helpful

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Fascinating read

The great migration was not a part of history covered in any of my history classes. This is a book all Americans, whatever ethnicity or background, should read. It is a piece of our history we should all know. This book was extraordinarily well written and extremely well narrated. For how long it is, it never felt long - I listened to it in record time, and felt compelled to listen all the time. Highly highly recommend.

18 people found this helpful

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a beautiful written history

This book, which richly deserves National Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, is a beautifully written history. The author, Isabel Wilkerson, does not take the statistically-intense route in explaining one of the most important (yet often forgotten) history events in 20th century US history. Rather, she follows three families in their migration from Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana/Georgia, to northern homes in NY, Chicago and Los Angeles. Along the way, the reader gets a full biography of 6 "ordinary" people, their extended families, their life in the south, the transition to the north, living in the north, and the ends of their lives. Wilkerson does a good job interspersing in this fascinating set of tales the statistical and other evidence about the migration in general. While showing the common and distinct elements experience by these individuals and families. The books nicely toggles back & forth between the 3 families, without getting irritating or confusing. The narration is also excellent.

45 people found this helpful

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Chapters out of order, can’t finish book

At chapter 30 the narration strangely jumps to an introduction of the book by Ken Burns, then to the authors postscript. This is very disappointing. I was enjoying the book very much until this point. Good luck figuring out the order of the chapters! I would just buy a hard copy of this book. Skip the audio.

11 people found this helpful

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  • C Saunders
  • 01-13-21

A fantastic masterpiece

This is a book which has clearly been meticulously researched and referenced. Isabel Wilkerson weaves the lives of three people throughout the historical events she mentions so that you can really absorb how these events shaped their lives and determined their choices. The best thing by far that I read in 2020. Beautifully narrated too. I have recommended it to a lot of people.

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  • Samantha Wharton
  • 12-31-20

wow!!!

so accurate. absolutely precise documented history. I absolutely loved the narratives of the characters this was so personal and so intimate. Isabel Wilkinson has carried out outstanding research which means that this is an authentic and factual piece of writing. I read this after reading Caste. They married well together. read both!!!

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  • LadyV
  • 11-04-20

Excellent

This is a beautifully written book detailing the Great Migration. Based on thousands of interviews, Isabel Wilkerson has produced an accessible and compelling sweeping history of the time. The audiobook is expertly narrated. A Great Listen.

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  • Bella A
  • 10-13-20

incredible

Absolutely brilliant and compelling read! Could not stop once I started. Very clear narration.

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  • SAMAEDRM
  • 09-16-20

EXCELLENT BOOK!

WELL ORGANIZED, WELL WRITTEN, ONE OF THE BEST EVER HISTORY BOOK OF AMERICAN! EVERY HUMAN RACE MUST READ THIS BOOK.

MAY ALL FORMS OF RACISM NULLIFY FROM THE ROOT! MAY PERPETRATORS OF RACISM BE NO MORE! MAY HATRED AND JEALOUS RESENTMENT OF AFRICANS, PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DESCENT, PEOPLE OF BRONZE SKIN (REFER TO AS BLACK) WITHIN AMERICA AND UNDER THE PLANETS END!

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  • Lynne Adams
  • 08-15-20

The Whole Picture

Anyone interested in the history of racism in the United States will find this invaluable. Because it is narrated through the stories of three particular people (who exemplify the three main strands of migration from slavery in the South to perceived freedom in the North, East and West) the reader is immediately drawn in and stays with them, as Isabel Wilkerson did, to the ends of their lives. Unforgettable.

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  • Charlotte Brook
  • 08-12-20

Phenomenal read !!

Just phenomenal , epic ,moving and raw. I am 100% getting the physical copy of this to go back to again and again . A must read!!

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  • Andrew
  • 06-30-20

A fabulous account of individual stories

This book desribes the experience of the black migration in a manner which gives insight and understanding while engendering empathy and a desire to know more about a fascinating subject

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  • Ifeyinwa Soluade
  • 08-11-19

Painful in parts ...

... but overall a triumph of determination and grit. So much insight into what I only knew from a distance and had gleaned from books and movies about that pivotal period in Black American history. Would highly recommend.

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  • bilal
  • 02-20-19

a moving read. highly recommended.

loved it start to finish. i listened it with physical book in hand . great read

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  • mrs sherrie martin
  • 04-08-21

Required Reading For All

This book, the exacting research, Ms Wilkerson’s brilliance with words, and Ms Robin Mikes’s performance were —-I can’t find the words in which the lives of Dr Foster, Isa Mae, and George Starling were made real through this exemplary work. I’m a youthful 66 year-old, whose ancestors’ lives on the US continent began in Texas and Louisiana before there was a US can only be shared with my family from my childhood inquisition of my elders. They are all gone now, my mother in 2020 at 82. Yes, she was a young MARRIED mother who, as a divorced young woman in San Francisco, ensured, by working two, sometimes three jobs, that her four children went to private school. A transplant from Beaumont Texas at 14, she missed the Miss Doras, and the teachers in her segregated school who warned, “Not studying? You’ll end up working in Miss Ann’s kitchen!” And while acknowledging “all honest work is good work,” she wanted us to have Southern values, ethics, and traditions, and none of racial pain of a Jim Crow South. Thank you Ms Wilkerson and Ms Moore. After listening, I purchased the book to read. Next? I am listening to “Caste.”

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  • Deaks
  • 10-04-20

Exceptional book

Loved it.

Well written and read. Personal stories interspersed with facts and sound analysis. I learned so much.

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  • aisia arrifianty fauzi
  • 02-26-20

Brilliant!

This book is brilliant. I will get a hangover from finishing this one, I’m very much sure of it

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-26-16

One of the best books I've ever "read"

A life-changing "read" - beautifully written, wonderfully narrated, heartbreaking book. It is SO important for us all to understand this important part of our history so that we can see and understand more clearly the things that are happening today in the US and around the world and work towards making things better. Should be required reading in schools for sure!