The Radical Feminist Book Group of NOCO NOW met via Zoom on January 28, 2021, to discuss The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism and author of the current award-winning book Caste (2020). The Warmth of Other Suns* is an in-depth study of the Great Migration, the exodus of 6 million African-Americans from the South to the Midwest, Northeast, and West during the years of 1915-1970. To write this book, Wilkerson interviewed over a 1000 people and compiled truly amazing research, much little-known or previously undiscovered. While her book offers substantial, insightful data explaining the causes, nature, and results of the migration, her work is not at all a dry rendition of facts and figures but rather an engrossing study of humanity driven to reach new goals and create meaningful lives, free from the often horrifying constraints of Jim Crow. To deeply personalize the information and show the diversity of the migration, Wilkerson selected three people among her interviewees whose detailed stories are intertwined throughout the book's narrative: Ida Mae Gladney, who traveled from Mississippi to Chicago in 1937; George Starling, from Florida to Harlem in 1945; and Robert Foster, from Louisiana to the West Coast in 1953. Members of the Book Group found the stories tracing the successes and disappointments of these three people -- with their different backgrounds, locales, and eras -- fascinating and compellingly told. Winner of numerous awards and chosen for some 30 "Best of the Year" lists in 2010, the book is currently being developed as a Netflix series by Shonda Rhimes. This work is unanimously recommended by the NOCO NOW Book Group.
*The name of this book was taken from a poem by author Richard Wright, who himself moved from the South to Chicago, in the 1920s. The poem, from Black Boy (1945), is excerpted here:
I was leaving the South
to fling myself into the unknown...
I was taking a part of the South
to transplant in alien soil,
to see if it could grow differently,
if it could drink of new and cool rains,
bend in strange winds,
respond to the warmth of other suns
and, perhaps, to bloom.