The Warmth of Other Suns

Dear Commons Community,

I have just finished reading The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wickerson.  It is a beefy book at 500 plus pages that tells the story of three African Americans from the South who move to New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles during the “Great Migration”.  Ms. Wickerson does a wonderful job of peaking the reader’s curiosity so you want to know what happens to Ida Mae, Robert and George.  In addition to their stories, you also learn a great deal about the “immigration” of African Americans to the North  during the 20th century, an important movement not generally covered well in American history courses.  The book is filled with rich insights such as:

“Had a study, like the 1968 Kerner Report on the state of race in America, been conducted in Ida Mae’s adopted neighborhood [South Shore, Chicago], it might have concluded that there were two neighborhoods-one, hardworking, and striving to be middle class, the other transient, jobless, and underclass;  one owners of property, the other tenants an d squatters; one churchgoing and law-abiding, the other drug-dealing and criminal-both coexisting on the same streets and one at odds with the other.”

Toward the end of the book, Ms. Wickerson attempts to answer the question whether the people who left the South –and their families-were better off for having done so.  I will leave the answer  for your reading enjoyment.

In sum, I highly recommend this book if you are interested in this chapter of American history.  It rates with Nicholas Lemann’s The Promised Land.


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