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'The Warmth of Other Suns'

I'm reading “The Warmth of Other Suns” right now, Isabel Wilkerson's beautiful, epic narrative following the migration of African Americans from the South to the North. It's easily the best book I've read in 2010. It's the sort of book that every American should read. I don't want to spend much more time talking about the book because I'll embarrass myself with hyperbole. Instead, I'll turn to Lawrence O'Donnell, who says, "Your understanding of America is woefully incomplete until you read 'The Warmth of Other Suns,’ ” and who had the wonderful idea to invite not just Wilkerson, but former NBA star Bill Russell, a child of that migration, onto his show last night. The clip is worth your time:

And kudos to O'Donnell for doing this segment: Our news shows have a tough time turning from "things that happened today" to "things that didn't happen today but still deserve our attention and consideration."

By Ezra Klein  | October 19, 2010; 10:53 AM ET
Categories:  Books  
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Comments

Agree, the story is a very important one, and a fascinating one. I've been meaning to get this book. It should be told in schools, in a manner parallel to the telling of the migration of white settlers to what became the US, and parallel to the later waves of white ethnic migrations to the US.

Posted by: bdballard | October 19, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

it was wonderful to listen to isabelle wilkerson and bill russell, last night. both of them are very special people, and hearing them speak, really is television at its best.
and much appreciation to lawrence o'donnell, for conducting such a sensitive and calm interview. he is very good in that milieu, and a" later in the evening show," is just perfect for that kind of a thoughtful interview.

it was very moving to hear mr russell speak, and the connection between the two of them, as they were there, was very special.

Posted by: jkaren | October 19, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I was working for a non-fiction editor at a major publishing house when Wilkerson was shopping her project around, easily 15+ years ago. I recall that she was incredibly charming in person. We offered on the book bid only to lose it to another house at auction, causing much ennui and gnashing of teeth. But it's such a thrill to see her produce this magisterial work after a long, methodical gestation.

Based on your recommendation, Ezra, and the buzz I've heard, I just ordered it for my Nook. I'm not sure why she didn't make the National Book Award cut, but here's hoping she cleans up with other prizes.

Posted by: scarlota | October 19, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Very good interview, and yes, it's surprising for a cable news show. But for the record, both Tavis Smiley and Charlie Rose did long-format interviews with Isabel Wilkerson earlier this month.

But the real point is about what we call "the news." What passes for news on cable television is not really even "what happened today." It consists almost exclusively of "what political chit chat, almost always domestic" we'd like to focus on today. Rarely do we get the full range of coverage of what went on in the world: foreign and domestic, business to arts. PBS NewsHour does a slightly better job of that, but it's considered so old-fashioned that its audience consists largely of seniors.

One of our local PBS stations airs France 24 news, NHK (Japan and Asia), and Journal (Journal Deutsche Welle), all in English-language editions. France 24, for example, though only a 30-minute broadcast, manages to split its coverage into world news, international business news (more interesting than the chit-chat on CNBC or Bloomberg, because it has meaty content), and substantive arts news. I've learned things about exhibitions, performances, and books in the US (and of course Europe) I'd never see covered in a US news program. We just suck at news in this country. It's either infotainment or agenda-driven. I miss real news. So I read the newspaper every morning.

Posted by: JJenkins2 | October 19, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

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