The year is winding to a close, whether I’m ready for it or not. I was talking to someone the other day at the bookstore about the books I’ve read this year, and she asked me which book was the most important on that list.
I didn’t hesitate in my reply.
If you haven’t read The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson yet, I hope that you can find a place for it on your upcoming reading list. I reserved it from the library, and waited for a few weeks until a copy was available. I took my time with this book, reading just a chapter or two a night.
Isabel Wilkerson transforms the bullet point in our American History textbooks on the Great Migration into a complex telling of a movement of people from the southeastern region of the country to the northeast, the midwest, and the west coast, over the course of sixty+ years, by weaving three personal narratives from that era together into this story. Wilkerson doesn’t merely interview three people for this book, she becomes a part of their lives for the better part of a decade in their later years, listening to their stories, reading their letters, talking to their neighbors and children, driving them to doctor’s appointments and church potlucks and funerals. Each person represents a different genesis point in the south, and different times and circumstances for leaving. All of these factors dictate the course of their migration path, and understanding these forces and these paths provides a foundation for understanding so many issues and struggles of today.
I’m not a professional book reviewer, and I’ve struggled to write this post because I feared that I could not do this book justice. All I can do is speak to the way this book spoke to me on so many levels, and encourage you to add it to your reading list.
The measure of a man’s estimate of your strength,” he finally told them, “is the kind of weapons he feels that he must use in order to hold you fast in a prescribed place.”