An impressive take on the Great Migration, and a truly auspicious debut.

THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS

THE EPIC STORY OF AMERICA'S GREAT MIGRATION

In her ambitious debut, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson (Journalism, Narrative Nonfiction/Boston Univ.) examines the Great Migration of African-Americans from World War I to the 1970s.

The author interviewed more than 1,200 people for this sweeping history, which focuses mainly on the personal stories of three Southern African-Americans who uprooted their lives to move to other parts of America: Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper’s wife who moved from rural Mississippi in the midst of the Great Depression, eventually landing in Chicago; George Swanson Starling, who went from picking fruit in north Florida to becoming a train attendant in 1940s New York; and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, an accomplished surgeon who moved from northern Louisiana to Los Angeles in the 1950s. Wilkerson uses their histories to tell the larger story of how institutionalized racism helped spur the Great Migration of millions of Southern African-Americans to northern, midwestern and western states. Gladney and her family decided to leave Mississippi after a relative, suspected of stealing turkeys, was nearly beaten to death by whites. Starling, after leading an attempted sit-down strike of some African-American fruit-pickers, fled Florida under threat of death. Foster moved to California because no Southern hospitals would hire an African-American surgeon; whites in the South wouldn’t even call him “Dr. Foster,” but “spat out ‘Doc’ as if they were addressing the cook.” Though each of Wilkerson’s subjects faced discrimination in the North as well, they felt a greater sense of freedom to pursue their own visions of the American dream. The author deftly intersperses their stories with short vignettes about other individuals and consistently provides the bigger picture without interrupting the flow of the narrative. While other fine books, such as Ira Berlin’s The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations (2010), address many of the same themes, Wilkerson’s focus on the personal aspect lends her book a markedly different, more accessible tone. Her powerful storytelling style, as well, gives this decades-spanning history a welcome novelistic flavor.

An impressive take on the Great Migration, and a truly auspicious debut.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-679-44432-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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