[A] landmark piece of nonfiction.... [Wilkerson] works on a grand, panoramic scale but also on a very intimate one, since this work of living history boils down to the tenderly told stories of three rural Southerners who immigrated to big cities from their hometowns. She winds up with 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.
Janet Maslin - New York Times
[A] massive and masterly account of the Great Migration.... Based on more than a thousand interviews, written in broad imaginative strokes, this book, at 622 pages, is something of an anomaly in today's shrinking world of nonfiction publishing: a narrative epic rigorous enough to impress all but the crankiest of scholars, yet so immensely readable as to land the author a future place on Oprah's couch.
David Oshinsky - New York Times Book Review
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
[Its] power arises from its close attention to intimate details in the lives of regular people...if you want to learn about what being a migrant felt like, read Wilkerson. Her intimate portraits convey as no book prior ever has what the migration meant to those who were a part of it. The Warmth of Other Suns stands as a vital contribution to our understanding of the black American experience and of the unstoppable social movement that shaped modern America.
Atlanta Journal Constitution
[Black Southerners] did not cross the turnstiles of customs at Ellis Island. They were already citizens. But where they came from, they were not treated as such,'' writes Isabel Wilkerson in The Warmth of Other Suns, her sprawling and stunning account of the Great Migration, the 55-year stretch (1915 70) during which 6 million black Americans fled the Jim Crow South. Wilkerson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, uses the journeys of three of them a Mississippi sharecropper, a Louisiana doctor, and a Florida laborer to etch an indelible and compulsively readable portrait of race, class, and politics in 20th-century America. History is rarely distilled so finely.
(Starred review.) Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man's turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners' plans to give him a "necktie party" (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by "the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn't operate in his own home town." Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson's magnificent, extensively researched study of the "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an "uncertain existence" in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.
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