The Warmth of Other Suns:The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson, was published about a week ago, and has received nothing less than spectacular reviews. The “Great Migration” was the northward movement of blacks from the South, seeking a better life, starting after the First World War. We still see traces of that migration here in Chicago, with much of the South Side reflecting where those migrants settled. Wilkerson’s story is told through the experience of three individuals; all the reviews laud its combination of scholarship and intimacy.
Wilkerson was formerly the New York Times bureau chief in Chicago, and is now a professor at Boston University. While in Chicago, she won a Pulitzer Prize, the first for an African-American woman in journalism. I haven’t yet read her book (you can bet I will soon), but given the fascinating but relatively unexplored subject and the book’s rave reviews, I’ll bet she’s in for another Pulitzer—for general nonfiction.
From the New York Times review:
“The Warmth of Other Suns” is Wilkerson’s first book. (Its title is borrowed from the celebrated black writer Richard Wright, who fled Jim Crow Mississippi in the 1920s to feel the warmth of those other suns.) Based on more than a thousand interviews, written in broad imaginative strokes, this book, at 622 pages, is something of an anomaly in today’s shrinking world of nonfiction publishing: a narrative epic rigorous enough to impress all but the crankiest of scholars, yet so immensely readable as to land the author a future place on Oprah’s couch.