Community Reading Project to focus on Great Migration

GVL / Eric Coulter
Grand Valley State University student Guillaume Dusseux reads The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. Wilkersons novel is this yearss community reading project.

Eric Coulter

GVL / Eric Coulter Grand Valley State University student Guillaume Dusseux reads The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. Wilkerson’s novel is this years’s community reading project.

Kendal Pektas

The Community Reading Project committee has selected “The Warmth of Other Suns,” written by Pulitzer Prize-winner novelist Isabel Wilkerson, as this year’s community read.

Since 2005, Grand Valley State University’s Community Reading Project has been holding a yearly reading program for students, staff and faculty. During each academic school year, the CRP committee selects one book that community members should read for a group discussion.

As a writer and professor of journalism at Boston University, Wilkerson spent the majority of her career as a national correspondent and bureau chief at “The New York Times.” She found inspiration in her own parents’ migration when writing her book, which she spent 15 years researching. She conducted interviews with more than 1,200 people who made the journey.

The book is about the struggles of the 6 million African Americans in the 20th Century who fled from the South, a period known as the Great Migration.

“The Warmth of Other Suns” follows the stories of those who made the journey and examines how and why people decided to leave their home behind in search of a better life.

“Readers will learn about how the Great Migration shaped the American landscape,” said Maureen Wolverton, a GVSU professor and CRP committee member. “They will be able to examine critically their own perceptions of caste limits in our society and how many brave people sacrifice so much to ensure their children could live better lives. It’s a very American story and a universal story as well.”

There will be various programs this semester to accompany the book, as well as an expected visit by the author in March.

Some professors also plan to incorporate the book into their curriculums.

“Because the book relies on so many oral histories, it is also a perfect compliment to the oral history project, ‘Speaking Out: Western Michigan’s Civil Rights Histories,’ that we are launching this year, “ said Melanie Shell-Weiss, a CRP committee member and assistant professor of liberal studies.

Shell-Weiss said the book does a great job of documenting the sacrifice made by the people who took part in the Great Migration and the details of the move from the South.

“The history really comes to life,” she said.

CRP offers book club kits available at Zumberge Library.

“It is very hard to tell how many readers we’ll have,” said Susan Mendoza, director of undergraduate research and integrative learning. “Word of mouth is one way books enter the culture.”

To join this year’s CRP, or for more information, visit

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