The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson has reached number three in Amazon’s U.S. History bestseller list. But since Woodward has his new book at number one as hardcover, and two via Kindle, Wilkerson is actually at second.
Wilkerson’s tour de force is easily my favorite book so far this year. I’m following one of her three protagonists, Dr. Robert Foster (called Pershing when he was growing up). In 1953, he leaves behind his family in Monroe, Louisiana, drives across Texas and finally reaches Los Angeles. I chose him because I was somewhat aware of the South to North stories, but other than knowing Oakland was a destination, unfamiliar with those who went west.
Foster had a long, tiring drive across the Sunbelt. He was pleased to be out of the world of Jim Crow, but still found prejudice. Hotelkeepers turned him down, even though the Vacancy sign shined bright for others. One can’t help but draw comparisons to the struggles of the Joads in Steinbeck’s masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath.
Foster tried Oakland but returned to Los Angeles where a friend helped him. He found work initially, going door to door to collect urine samples and performing exams. One lady refused him and called him the N word. Terribly ironic, for she was black too.
Of this humiliating experience, Foster told Wilkerson:
To think that I had come all this was from the Deep South, out here to this Land of Milk and Honey and Opportunity and Intelligence, to find that one of my own color was disrespecting me.
On the horizon is another massively researched book, Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow. It is already high on the charts, and doesn’t come out until next Tuesday.
A lot of books have been written about Washington, but this one is getting high praise. It’s even timely, as the criticism of our current President heats up.
In her review, Janet Maslin writes:
“Washington” also devotes great attention to the harsh criticism that Washington faced as soon as the luster faded and the governing began. As president, missing his beloved Mount Vernon and incurring great financial losses to serve as head of state, he was carped about so relentlessly that even his way of tapping a fork at the dinner table could become fodder for malicious gossip.