You might be wondering why I’m discussing these 2 books in one post. The Warmth of Other Suns is a Pulitzer Prize Awarded book that chronicles narrates the history of migration by African-American in post-Reconstruction through the 50’s/60’s. The strength of the history is highlighted by narratives of 3 people during the decades of the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. Three people who took different routes, propelled by different circumstances, but all for the same reason of escaping the strangulation of the Jim Crow South for Freedom and Dignity and Life itself.
This is a FANTASTIC pairing with The Grace of Silence, my previous read. Both of these books that have gotten inside of me and I’ve become an advocate that both are must-reads for everyone! Of course I recognize that sly hopeful, maybe naive, current that if everyone understood and knew the details of the African-American experience we would be respected for what could be described as a story of Biblical greatness and thus Reparations would begin in earnest and without conflict. But then I am who I am, and the snarky self arises and I know that even if everyone read these books and knew, they wouldn’t care…but at least, it couldn’t be said that not knowing was the cause of ignorant and fearful behavior.
The 3 main narratives in this book cover the events prior to individual decisions to migrate away. First is Ida Mae and her husband George, cotton sharecroppers, who left Mississippi in the 3o’s after an in-law had been murdered by a mob for stealing turkeys which later found out not to be true at all. The next narrative covers George, a fruit picker with a year of college in Florida, who decides to leave in the 40’s after orchard owners discuss plotting to kill him over his attempts to organize labor. The third narrative covers Robert, a surgeon from Louisiana, who couldn’t stomach the indignities after returning from military service in Austria where he was afforded some freedoms and respect. All their lives are placed squarely in the larger narrative of millions of people who formed this historical phenomenon.
This book and The Grace of Silence have filled me with inescapable reflecting on my own family and their journey. Back in the 80s when I was actively writing poetry and researching genealogy and collecting oral histories, I wrote a series of poems using the information I had gathered. The reflecting gets intense and fills me so that I feel like I’m going to burst. As a way of lessening the internal feeling of pressure I wanted something light, humorous…I first reached for a book by David Sedaris but it wasn’t doing the trick. Solely by accident, well maybe not true since Amazon analyzes my buying habits and searches I found The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.
Rubin’s book was the literary prescription. She explores her own personal life happiness, not because she was unhappy or depressed, but to challenge herself to maximizes her life to the fullest appreciation of it. She went all far-reaching by reading everything and everyone on the subject of happiness and then sets out to personalize her own journey and observing the effects upon her life and those around her. She has just enough of the keeping-it-real attitude that gives the book a humorous touch while not being dismissive about what she is attempting to do.
I haven’t finished either one of them but I’m enjoying both of them for different reasons!