Best Nonfiction 2010: Isabel Wilkerson

Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns made Salon’s “Best Nonfiction Books of 2010” feature. Glad to see that African American contributions aren’t ignored.

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper’s wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man’s turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners’ plans to give him a “necktie party” (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by “the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn’t operate in his own home town.” Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson’s magnificent, extensively researched study of the “great migration,” the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an “uncertain existence” in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.

This book is a definite addition to the list. Who knows, I may just find an idea that sparks a new short story.

Happy reading, y’all!

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4 thoughts on “Best Nonfiction 2010: Isabel Wilkerson

  1. This was an incredible book! It was like reading the memoirs of three people rather than a stuffy history book. We had her tonight at my job for a booksigning and she is a wonderful person..

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  2. I am currently reading this book and am thoroughly enjoying it. I’m delighted that Wilkerson is getting recognized for this amazing book, which highlights an often unacknowledged, yet profound movement within Black and American history.

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