Daily Archives: January 28, 2011

** The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns describes the Great Migration, through which six millions African-Americans left the segregated South and settled in the North. The story is told largely through the lives of three migrants to New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, weaved together with more general considerations and lots of statistics about the migrants and their lives, and a few extra anecdotes about well-known figures such as Jesse Owens, Mahalia Jackson, and Ray Charles.

The horrible treatment of African-Americans in the Jim Crow states in the early 20th century is, unfortunately, not a surprise, but the author also describes the burning of palm trees in the lawn of black families (in Los Angeles), the decisions of factories to hire white immigrants rather than black women to work on assembly lines (in Chicago) and the housing discrimination that raised rent levels for African-Americans 40% higher than for whites (in New York). The North certainly offered better living conditions, but not close to what is right and fair.

What I did not like about the book is the constant repeating of the same facts. Each time the author returns to one of the three stories, which are intertwined in the book, she repeats, it seems, half of the previous chapter, as if the reader could not possibly keep each strand memorized. Yes we can! Still, a very interesting book.

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