The Book

In a story of hope and longing, three young people set out from the American South during different decades of the 20th Century en route to the North and West in search of the warmth of other suns. They were forced out by the limits of the caste into which they had been born.

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, George Swanson Starling and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster are among the six million African-Americans who fled the South during what would become known as the Great Migration. This book interweaves their stories and those of others who made the journey with the larger forces and inner motivations that compelled them to flee, and with the challenges they confronted upon arrival in the New World.

Toni Morrison calls the book ”profound, necessary, and a delight to read.” Tom Brokaw praises it as ”an epic for all Americans who want to understand the making of our modern nation.” Critics have acclaimed it as ”a massive and masterly account” (The New York Times Book Review, cover review); “a deeply affecting, finely crafted and heroic book” (The New Yorker); ”a brilliant and stirring epic” (The Wall Street Journal).

The San Francisco Chronicle writes: “Not since Alex Haley’s Roots has there been a history of equal literary quality where the writing surmounts the rhythmic soul of fiction, where the writer’s voice sings a song of redemptive glory as true as Faulkner’s southern cantatas.”

The Warmth of Other Suns became a New York Times and national best seller, won the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction along with half a dozen other juried prizes and was named to more than 30 Best of the Year lists, including:

The New York Times’ 10 Best Books of the Year, Amazon’s 5 Best Books of 2010 and Best of the Year lists in The New Yorker, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Economist, The Seattle Times, The San Francisco Examiner, Newsday, Salon, The Daily Beast, The Christian Science Monitor, O Magazine, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Entertainment Weekly and a dozen others.

The Great Migration, which comes to life in the pages of this book, lasted from 1915 to 1970, involved six million people and was one of the largest internal migrations in U.S. history. It changed the country, North and South. It brought us jazz, Motown, rhythm and blues,  hip hop. It brought us John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Jimi Hendrix, Toni Morrison, August Wilson, Romare Bearden, Malcolm X, Jesse Owens, Bill Russell, Denzel Washington, Michelle Obama — all children or grandchildren of the Great Migration. It changed the cultural and political landscape of America, exerting pressure on the South to change and paving the way toward equal rights for the lowest caste people in the country.

Based on interviews with 1,200 people who participated in the Migration and on newly available census analyses and research into archival material, The Warmth of Other Suns tells one of the greatest underreported stories in American history. It is the story of how the northern cities came to be, of the music and culture that might not have existed had the people not left, the consequences North and South and, most importantly, of the courageous souls who dared to leave everything they knew for the hope of something better.

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