I was not at all sure I wanted to read this book. On the surface, it's a tough sell: 600 pages about the Great Migration. So, like, a really long book about people moving house? In what world would that be interesting?
Here's the thing, though: Isabel Wilkerson is a special kind of writer and researcher. She's not regurgitating facts. She's telling a story. Three stories, actually, of three very different people who all journeyed from the southern United States to the north in the mid-20th century. And, of course, their stories are all a lot more complicated than just picking up and moving from one part of the country to another.
Before reading The Warmth of Other Suns, I had heard the term “Jim Crow” but had no real idea of the horrifying reality behind it. I was grossly uneducated about white oppression of African Americans post-slavery. I had no idea I had so many gaping holes in my education. Even the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., beloved by elementary school teachers everywhere as the safe, unobjectionable way to teach the history of the civil rights movement and which Wilkerson touches upon through the lenses of her three subjects, was not nearly as non-violent and passive as I expected.
This is the kind of book that is perfect for audio. Sitting down with 600 pages of non-fiction in print can be daunting, but listening to an hour or two a day isn't scary. Narrator Robin Miles is a skilled reader, and brings all three individuals to life with expertly executed accents. I could have listened to her interpretation of Ida Mae's silky Mississippi drawl all day long.
Ultimately, I'm so glad I invested the time and mental energy The Warmth of Other Suns required of me, and if you choose to do the same, I can assure you, you won't regret it.