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“The Warmth of Other Suns”

Welcome to our discussion of Isabel Wilkerson’s, “The Warmth of Other Suns”. Wilkerson’s epic book tells the story of The Great Migration, which lasted from 1915 to 1970, involved six million people and was one of the largest internal migrations in U.S. history. By blending the stories of three families that leave to escape the Jim Crow South, with the historical events of that time, Wilkerson creates a compelling work that Toni Morrison called ”profound, necessary, and a delight to read.” This work is based on interviews with 1,200 people who participated in the Migration as well as census data from that time period.

This National Book Critics Circle Award Winner and New York Times Top 10 Best Book of the Year was chosen as the “On The Same Page” community read project by the Winston Salem, Forsyth County Public Library. Those bookclub participants in the area may wish to participate in some of the “On The Same Page” events, including a discussion of the book at Wake Forest University on Tuesday, October 16th from 7-9pm in the ZSR Library, classroom 476.

I would like to begin our online discussion of this important work with one of the questions provided from the author’s website. “In many ways The Warmth of Other Suns seeks to tell a new story—about the Great Migration of southern blacks to the north—and to set the record straight about the true significance of that migration. What are the most surprising revelations in the book? What misconceptions does Wilkerson dispel?”

Category: Discussion, The Warmth of Other Suns

6 Responses to “The Warmth of Other Suns”

  1. Connie says:

    @David Seth Walker – What do you mean she doesn’t speak about the “real” reason for the migration? Don’t the stories illustrate the reason? What would you say is the real reason?

  2. elizabeth thalhimer smartt '98 says:

    While reading, I kept thinking about my Jewish ancestors’ migration from a small town in Baden, Germany in the 1840s. They, too, were second-class citizens who fled injustice in search of a better life for themselves and their families.

    I knew very little about the “great migration” before reading this book. My thoughts went in many different directions while reading it…I thought quite a bit about the racism that still lingers in the deep south and how long it will take to quell it, even after having a black U.S. president. I thought about how the second generation of any migrant group struggles to understand and appreciate what their parents endured. I thought about how our country currently treats Mexican immigrants – legal and illegal. I thought about how we must continue to record people’s stories to understand topics like this one.

    And, for bonus points, I read this book on my iPhone while feeding a newborn during the nights! It was a lengthy but worthwhile read.

    • Hu Womack says:

      Elizabeth, I enjoyed your comments and I’m impressed with your dedication to read the book while up with a newborn! Recently, WFU Alumnae, Melissa Harris-Perry, spoke in Wait Chapel and described race as a social construct. I found this to be a fascinating perspective on the issue of race that gave me new insights into race relations in this country! Keep those excellent comments coming!

  3. Hu Womack says:

    David Seth Walker, thank you for the feedback on the book. We like to see alumni participating in the book club.

    Martha Wooten Adrian, please don’t pass on this book! It is an excellent read and full of compelling accounts of the Great Migration! Remember, David Seth Walker also said the book was of great use in his “Great American Century” course! We hope you will join us as we discuss this work over the course of the month.

  4. Martha Wooten Adrian says:

    David Seth, saw your comment here. Very small world (your cousin). Hope you and your family are doing well. May pass on this book as a result of your comment.

  5. David Seth Walker '62 says:

    As an adjunct professor of American History, I found this book to be of great use in my “Great American Century” course. Ms. Wilkerson does, of course, speak little about the real reason for the migration. Significance yes, bottom line reason, weak.

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