Book Review: The Warmth Of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Ratings for reviews will appear above the fold, while the review itself will appear below the fold to avoid spoilers for anyone that wants to go into it with a blank slate.

Jean-Paul’s rating: 5/5 stars

Oh, the indignities we inflict on our fellow man.  Oh, the indignities we can endure.

The Great Migration of blacks in the United States from the South to places north and west lasted from World War I to the Vietnam War.  I bookend this event by wars not because the wars affected the Great Migration, though they did, but because the Great Migration was a living embodiment of refugees attempting to escape a South not torn by war but by terrorism.  “The Warmth of Other Suns” brings that second dark saga in America’s racist past to light like no history book can.

The book itself is part exposition on the history of the Great Migration and part personal history of three intrepid adventurers who escaped the South near the end of the Great Migration looking for a better life for themselves and their families with some cool sociological studies thrown in for good measure.  The personal stories are compelling and heartrending.  Ida Mae Brandon Gladney left her dangerous sharecroppers life in Mississippi with her husband to settle in Chicago.  She saw more and lived through more lifetimes than is possible to imagine.  Robert Joseph Pershing Foster left the racism he faced as a doctor in Louisiana and the Army to make the life he knew he was meant to lead in Los Angeles.  He was controlling and demanding and everyone loved him.  George Swanson Starling escaped his crop picking life in Florida where people wanted him dead for demanding more money and settled in New York.  His situation determined his actions and his actions determined his future and he deserved better on all accounts.

It is a shame that the history we learn in school can’t be as detailed as this book.  It really should be required reading for every American.  It covers just one of many incredibly depressing chapters in United States history and is made all the more depressing because the fallout from it is still being felt.  All because of the color of a person’s skin.  For shame, America, for shame.