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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

Review: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration - Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration is epic indeed. What's most amazing about this book is the sheer amount of research that must have gone into it. Despite focusing largely on only three migrants, Isabel Wilkerson interviewed nearly two hundred individuals in addition to gathering information from nearly eighty organizations. The result is a story that provides a relatively complete picture of the “Great Migration” that started during World War I and lasted into the 1970s. The Warmth of Other Suns is as vast as it is important.

The book's only flaw comes from a lack of editing (though it could've been a conscious choice of style). The Warmth of Other Suns is unnecessarily repetitive. Every few chapters, the reader is reminded of what happened ten or twenty pages earlier. Now, this may be intentional. When telling a narrative with three different story lines, it's understandable that the author may feel the need to reiterate. Perhaps she didn't trust her readers to remember. Perhaps she thought they'd welcome the reminder. Certainly, I wouldn't have been opposed to a little of this courtesy, but it does exceed necessity.

Though the repetition keeps this book from being the riveting narrative it could be, it is not any less important of a story of an often overlooked historical event. The Warmth of Other Suns is the right blend of voice and historical detail, a telling so rich that one expects it may be remembered for a long time.