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Isabel Wilkerson and the Warmth of Other Suns Book Review

Isabel Wilkerson is one of the most outstanding journalists in the United States of America. She is the author of the New York Times' bestselling book entitled The Warmth of other Suns. Isabel Wilkerson came into notice in 1994 when she won a Pulitzer Prize for individual reporting, thus becoming the first bl?ck woman in the history of Am?rican journalism who won a Pul?tzer Prize. Besides, Isabel turned out to be the first African-Am?rican woman who won it exactly for individual writing works in the field of journalism. Having become a working team member at The New York Times newspaper, Isabel achieved high results in her career as a brilliant writer and journalist. She created and established a brand-new quality style of narrative reporting that made her literary works unique and inimitable.

Isabel Wilkerson was born in Washington, D.C. in 1961 in a family of natives of the South. Her parents met each other at Howard University that at that time was one of the leading educational establishments in the city. After having graduated her parents made a decision to stay in Washington, D.C. Isabel often recollects this aspect in her biography because she strongly believes that her parents' migration to north of the country is the very reason for which she got so interested in the period of Great Migration. This became her longstanding inspiration leading her through hard work on the book dedicated to migration period in American history.

Isabel started her journalist career when she was a high school student. She worked as an editor at a school newspaper. When she graduated, she enrolled at Howard University. There she became a reporter for the campus paper, known as “The Hilltop”. Later Isabel managed to become its senior editor. In 1983 she got her bachelor's degree. From that time she captured attention of many newspaper editors throughout the country. Partly, a great role in her career was played by her internships pursuit at such influential newspapers as The Washington Post. Moreover, she received the Mark of Excellence Award from the Society of Professional Journalists when she presented her feature writing as a college student.

In a year, Isabel started to work for the Detroit Free Press as a feature writer. In 1984 she successfully changed her work place at this newspaper for The New York Times. There she was a metropolitan journalist. Her duties included collecting and writing court news, local politics, etc. In two years she became a national correspondent and held this post until 1991 (Wilkerson, 2013). Isabel and her team of editors collected hundreds of Midwestern stories, which, as they believed, deserved to be read by national audience.

Looking at the early stage of Wilkerson's career, it is easy to see that her passion and empathy for people and their stories made her writings exclusively different from those written by her peers. Isabel noted in her Emory Report that nothing really mattered to her until she could clearly see what lied in people's hearts. This was the specific approach she used. Every story, every word she wrote came out naturally when she could feel the way people felt. It was not just reporting and reflecting what happened. Those were conscious stories observed by thousands of people in their everyday lives.

Her way of writing became close to the national audience. Readers liked her articles and reports and gave positive and enthusiastic responses. This fact made the management of The New York Times reconsider her post in the newspaper. In 1991 she was offered a position of a bureau chief in Chicago. For a woman in her thirtieth it was a quite astounding promotion.

Being a bureau chief, she worked for weeks, sometimes even months on a single story. In 1993 this way of working brought very good results for Isabel. She received a George Polk Award from Long Island University for regional reporting, and consequently wrote her three popular stories. The first one was about a poor daily life of a ten year old child Nicholas living in Chicago neighborhoods. Other two were written about a flood in the small town of Hardin in Missouri. These touching stories brought Isabel a Pulitzer Prize in 1994. Since none of African-American women was ever awarded with a prize in the field of feature writing. Wilkerson's success greatly impressed American audience.

In 1995 Isabel left her position of Chicago bureau chief and became a senior writer for The New York Times newspaper. Besides, in the late 1990s she contributed a lot of time to teaching and other interesting projects. For instance, in 1997 she worked as Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. Other high educational establishments where she lectured were Emory University, Northwestern University and Harvard University. Along with teaching, Isabel continue to write captivating stories for The New York Times and other newspapers.


Despite of her hard work in the best American newspapers and teaching at the most prestige universities in the world, Wilkerson did not abandon the idea to write a book dedicated to the Great Migration period. As a result, in 2008 she started to focus mostly on the history of the Great Migration. Previously, she had already done a great job related to the idea by collecting a lot of information about the Great Migration flows. What was done by her at that time was winning support for the book project in the 1990s, receiving an advance from a publisher in 1997, and a research fellowship from a famous Guggenheim Foundation in 1998. Intensive research of migration data and its structuring took a lot of Isabel's time. Her idea to write a book about Great Migration came to her mind many years ago, and finally in 2010 her book The Warmth of Other Suns was published.

This book has already become more than just a narrative epic covering an important historical period of the United States of America. Its major theme of the Great Migration reveals all the significance it encloses. More than six million people left their homes during 1915 to 1920. Sometimes it is hard to realize a real extent of what happened at that time. The Great Migration changed the country. It brought the cultural and political changes making the way toward equal rights for the lowest tier of American society.

The Warmth of Other Suns has won more than eight awards and prizes. Some of these are the following: the Award of National B?ok Critics C?rcle for Nonfiction in 2010, the L?nton H?story Prize from Harvard University in 2011, the Anisf?eld-W?lf Award in 2011, the H?llman B?ok Pr?ze in 2011, the ?ndependent Lit?rary Award, the New England Book Award etc. This long list of prestige awards gives a plain understanding that the book itself is a unique literary masterpiece worth thousands of approving and favoring words.

The W?rmth of Oth?r Suns is the first book written by Isabel Wilkerson. She has borrowed the title from a well-known African-American writer R?chard Wr?ght, who actually was the one, who fled in 1920 from J?m Cr?w Miss?ssippi to get a feeling of the warmth of other suns (Oshinsky, 2010). The book describes the journey of three Southern black people who made a decision to migrate from the South.

Each of main characters represents a different decade in the Great Migration period. On the pages of the book, the author acquaints readers with Ida Mae Gladney, her two children and a husband making their escape to Chicago's South Side, with George Swanson Starling who flees from Florida to Harlem in 1945, and with Dr. Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, who decides to move to Los Angeles, California in 1953. Their stories show the certain situation of the past when  racism spurs millions of African-American people from the South to leave their home and look for a better life in western and northern states of the country. According to the book, Gladney, Isabel's favorite character, with her family leaves their house after her relative was beaten to death by white people because they suspected him in stealing. The other character Mr. Starling fled because of the threat of death, and Mr. Foster left his home because no one in the South would ever hire an African-American doctor.

Isabel gives detailed descriptions of the social and political conditions and hardships that main characters go through. Their stories are taken together from the pieces Isabel managed to find when she did her profound research during long seven years. She took more than one thousand two hundred interviews and examined many primary source documents and scholarly works that could witness and give a particular analysis of the beginn?ngs of Jim Cr?w South in 1880 till the end of the Gr?at Migr?tion in 1970 (Wilkerson, 2011). There are good paragraphs in the book that present all the horror, cruelty and ugliness ?f Jim Cr?w and r?cism in the N?rth, wh?re there was no identification of discrimination by certain rules or laws as well ?s in the S?uth.

The Warmth of Other Suns reveals certain details of the events that happened during the Great Migration and makes readers see, understand and get to know the historical facts many Americans even do not know about. Wilkerson tried to make people feel the breathing of the past, which should be learned but should never be repeated. In order to create a better future and guarantee happy life for the whole nation, people should be aware of the mistakes made in the past and be taught by them. This is a very important point that is supported in the book by Isabel. She is sure that the national history is a well of knowledge that must be used for avoiding possible mistakes in future.

Today, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson is recognized as one of the ten b?st bo?ks of the year by The New York Times B?ok Review, one of the Five B?st Bo?ks of the Y?ar by Amazon and is included in the B?st of the Y?ar lists of The Boston Globe, The Economist, O Magazine, The N?w Yorker, etc. Great news was when President Barack Obama chose the book for his summer reading in 2011. In 2012 The New York Times Magazine acknowledged The Warmth of Other Suns as one of the All-Time B?st B?oks of Nonfiction. Here goes a conclusion thatregardless of the fact that the book was published three years ago, it has a great potential to become one of the top classic books that will go down to posterity.

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