I've been in a great reading groove for quite some time now. I'm on my 13th book since the beginning of the year, and it's one I've been anticipating for a long while.
Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns has been on my radar since it came out three years ago. In this massive undertaking, Wilkerson, who in 1994 became the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize while working as the Chicago bureau chief for The New York Times, tells the story of the emigration of African Americans from the South to the North and West that took place from World War I until the early '70s.
During that half century, approximately six million people fled the brutally repressive conditions in the Jim Crow south for cities ranging from Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and New York, to Los Angeles, Oakland and Houston. They didn't know what they would find upon their arrival, and often times they surely discovered that conditions weren't much better than what they'd known back home.
I've just barely cracked this book, so this isn't a review. I just wanted to get across how excited I am to be reading this book. I'll admit that I knew next to nothing about this amazing chapter in America's history. I was aware that black Southerners headed north seeking work, and that countless Delta guitarists turned Chicago into the capital of the blues.
But I had no idea of the scope of the exodus, and never thought about the incredible bravery involved in taking part. Entire families left everything behind because they were so sick of being harassed, beaten, threatened and humiliated by white folks. Sometimes just the men left in search of work; at times it was just women. All of them went seeking something better, a place where they could spread their wings a bit, have a chance at moving upward.
Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,200 people while researching and writing this book. She uses the riveting information from their stories to build the base of the 500-plus page book, while focusing on three individuals whose stories she tells in rich, rich detail.
Here she explains her process:
I may post more about this book as I read it, and most likely something when I'm all done. I can say this, though. I recommend it already and I'm only 35 pages in.