Thursday, March 17, 2011

Reading list... Warmth of Other Suns

I've always been perplexed by those people who said they were reading multiple books at once. I didn't understand how their mind could process different books all at once. Granted, I constantly have a pile of books that I'm going to get to "one day", next to the pile of books I started but decided I would never finish, but generally only actively reading one at a time. Until now. Perhaps my attention span is getting shorter, my interests are widening, or I've just forgotten where I've left my book and went on to the next, but I'm now reading 5 books simultaneously. And so far - I've kept things straight and know who belongs in which book. They are all different genres, so I'm sure that helps to keep them separate in my mind. they are also in separate physical locations, as well. On my nightstand, in my car, in my purse, on the kitchen counter, around here wherever last I left it. Then when I go to that place, there's a book for me to read.

The book for bookclub was "Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson. The author spent over a decade researching the history of the Black migration from the southern states to the northern cities - the why, how, when, where - to produce this novel-like epic, highlighting the journey of 3 people. They left their homes, their families, everything they knew in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida with hopes for a better life in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. The emigrants were Black, but one thing pointed out in their stories was how all people - mostly Black & White, of course, in the south - were affected by the limitations of Jim Crow.

Reading it has made me think about things I never gave much consideration. What was it like picking cotton if you just weren't any good at it? What does it feel like not to be able to protect your own family? How do you know when you've had enough? Its also made me miss my great aunt and wish I had asked her even more questions when I had the chance. I know she and her sisters (and thus our family) left Virginia after her mother died, to be with their father. But I never asked "why did he leave in the first place?"

At our bookclub discussion, the subject turned to the present. The history of the migration makes one realize the great sacrifice and steps of faith taken by those who left their southern homes. We often consider the sacrifice of the civil rights movement, but without this first migration, there may not have been a civil rights movement. So when you think of all the people who left their families, took a chance, gave their lives to move from a life of oppression - physical, mental, legal, social - what are we doing with their legacy? What are we doing now to make sure that our society keeps moving positively forward? What are we doing, as individuals, to ensure that people can access opportunities, can reach their potential, can have a dream for which to strive?

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