Category Archives: The Warmth of Other Suns

The Warmth of Other Suns, (continued)

Over the last couple of years I’ve noticed my sadness when I come to the last chapter of a book that deeply touches my heart.  I don’t want to say goodbye.  I did this with this book.  Wilkerson’s is a superb narrator.  Ida Mae, Robert, and George are the 3 people from over 1200 that she selected to tell their story alternating from their lives to a larger historical perspective and I found myself so immersed in their lives and the history and reflecting on my own family that I just didn’t want to stop.  Back in the 80’s I set out to do genealogy and oral interviews with family members which would become the basis for poems.  This book sent me back to that mindset and my mind spiraling about future projects in quilts.

I was so immersed in the 3 lives Wilkerson focused on that I didn’t want their stories to end.  I wanted to know even more…I wanted more historical revelations…not because the narrations or histories where inadequate, but because the lives of African Americans is so full and rich and yet so little known beyond generalizations by the larger public regardless of race.

Wilkerson also treats history as a fluid, living, breathing body of knowledge.  I take the view that there are artifacts, letters, data that have yet to be dusted off, studied, and revealed and we need to be gingerly about clamping down on fixed notions, ideas as if they will never change.

This book along with The Grace of Silence will be on my lips for years to come and will become re-reads in the future.

Henry Louis Gates video interview with Isabel Wilkerson

Charlie Rose interviewing Isabel Wilkerson


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Filed under African American, Author Links, Immigrant Experience, The Warmth of Other Suns

The Warmth of Other Suns-The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Kindle Edition, by Isabel Wilkerson, 2010, Vintage Books and The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, 2010, Harper-Collins E-book.

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.

(click on either photo image for more info)

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!

Isabel Wilkerson’s website

Gretchen Rubin blog

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Filed under African American, Author Links, history, Kindle, Self-Help, The Great Migration, The Happiness Project, The Warmth of Other Suns, Uncategorized