The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration
By Isabel Wilkerson
The Warmth of Other Suns “chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the south for northern and western cities in search of a better life.”
“This is narrative nonfiction, lyrical and tragic and fatalist. The story exposes; the story moves; the story ends.”
This is Wilkerson’s first book, but she’s no newcomer to journalistic narrative; she’s a Pulitzer Prize winner for her work in the New York Times.
This is a truly epic story, grand in scale — covering a half century — and vast in ambition — as part of Wilkerson’s intensive research for the book, she interviewed over 1,000 people. The resulting form: stories which are “case studies written as novellas”…told “through the lives of three people no one has heard of.” Not just epic but intimate — specific stories, told with precision.
This is a compelling narrative device — using these three portraits, unfolding over long periods of time, to illustrate a much larger experience, a mostly unwritten, emergent phenomena which affected over six million people — “perhaps the biggest underreported story of the twentieth century.” In Wilkerson’s “Notes on Methodology” she characterizes the book as “essentially three projects in one”; it’s clear she invested enormous care and effort into doing the story justice.
I really like how one reviewer put it: “What she’s done with these oral histories is stow memory in amber.”