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Moonrise Over New Jessup

by Jamila Minnicks

Moonrise Over New Jessup by Jamila Minnicks X
Moonrise Over New Jessup by Jamila Minnicks
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2023, 336 pages

    Nov 28, 2023, 352 pages


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There are currently 29 member reviews
for Moonrise Over New Jessup
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  • Molly O. (Centennial, CO)
    Unique view of Utopia
    Historically there has been a longing for an idyllic life. In Jamila Minnicks' new offering, Moonrise Over New Jessup, a black community sees its hope for Utopia resides in segregation. Although all utopian dreams fail, the sincere desire and moral standing of the people of New Jessup make us wish that the dream is realized. Set in the 1960s amid the growing push for integration, the townsfolk, represented by characters Alice and Raymond and his close-knit family, long for a world in which they are not daily humiliated or bullied by the white people of Alabama. Building an independent world with free elections and schools: Raymond knows that by doing so he is preserving the legacy of generations of his family. Alice, his wife, his love, his best companion, and an outsider, comes to cherish this life as much as the generations of New Jessup residents.

    While the book ends on a hopeful note, history has taught us that the outside world will encroach on this idealism. Minnicks' prose is lovely and she creates characters that we truly come to care for.
  • Janice P. (South Woodstock, VT)
    Could Separate Be Equal?
    This striking picture of the Civil Rights movement, from a Southern black perpective not so far included included in the mainstream white-dominated narrative, raises that question through the compelling emotional struggle of Alice Young, who flees a plantation-minded, nominally integrated and repressive rural Alabama, hoping to find her sister in Birmingham, but who ends up in the prosperous all-black town of New Jessup, where she finds dignity, opportunity, love and hope. Here the message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. falls on deaf ears; citizens fear integration will destroy their freedom to be left in peace, to flourish as property and business owners and create a vibrant community— though they are still unable to vote, or to separate their town officially from a neighboring white community, so they don't get back their fair share of tax funds for their school. Most feel that's a price they are willing to pay to raise their children with pride and respect.

    Alice feels that way too—her new home is Eden compared to the brutal treatment, daily insults and injustice she experienced under "integration." But the man she loves is part of a clandestine group seeking to peacefully challenge the status quo. As this work gains urgency, pressures mount, for Alice and for New Jessup. No spoilers!

    I loved the author's lively way with words, full of poetry and local dialect, and her vivid portrait of the setting, its food, its social life. I admired how gracefully, naturally, she wove the complexity of Alice's dilemma into the story through fast-paced action and dialogue. I learned so much from this novel; it is a model of how literature expands our understanding.

    Readers who admire Barbara Kingsolver as I do will not be disappointed with this engrossing and eye-opening novel, winner of her PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.
  • Lorraine Donner
    A Story of Struggle, Joy and the Challenges Inherent In Progress
    "Moonrise Over New Jesssup " by Jamila Minnicks is an awakening to the many mindsets around the complexities of desegregation. She presents the nuances of the movement that history books fail to capture. There is drama, tension, and joy in the telling. The events gently unfold frequently with humor and poetic nuances. One tense moment was descriptively preceded with "The sky vacuumed up the air like it did before a storm". Jamila Minnicks' style and phraseology makes one feel that they are right there, present, in the heart of this family, as their lives and challenges unfold. This is a wonderful read that I highly recommend.
  • Diane S. (El Paso, TX)
    Eye-opening History
    It's 1957 and Alice Young is heading north when she gets off the bus for a break in New Jessup, Alabama, an all Black town. She is enamored by the freedom and people she encounters and decides to stay. Her story unfolds against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement with an eye-opening revelation: not all Black people, especially those in all Black towns, were in favor of integration even though their towns were not totally independent and they couldn't vote. They had fought hard for their peaceful existence, and they didn't want to change. I am grateful to Jamila Minnicks for enlightening me about this overlooked chapter in the history of the Civil Rights Movement. I loved the story and the well-drawn characters and felt like I would have liked to live in New Jessup.
  • Karna B. (Urbandale, IA)
    "Moonrise Over New Jessup" | A Novel by Jamila Minnicks With Well Deserved Awards
    I loved this story. "Moonrise Over New Jessup" is a thought provoking fictional story about life in rural Alabama in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Through the pen of Alice Young, Jamila Minnicks masterfully addresses the issue of segregation vs desegregation by creating characters who champion the differing philosophies of the like of MLK Jr, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. She explores how these competing ideas affect community attitudes and politics and the strongly held views of individuals. Through Alice's life we get a glimpse into the nuances of the civil rights movement and the atrocities suffered by those who were then called Negro.

    The town of New Jessup, in general, ascribes to the teachings of Booker T. Washington and is resistant to anyone with opposing views, but a new generation is coming that wants to adapt the philosophy a bit. Change proves difficult. As far as I've been able to tell the organization that New Jessup young people get involved with has a fictional name. Once I realized this it actually helped me stay with the story and stop trying to look at Google for more details on every issue. Most of the characters, both main and incidental are fictional, but the name of Sam Cooke singing his blues in Washington DC brings the story into real life. I quickly grew to love the main characters, Alice and Raymond, but perhaps my favorite character was Ms. Vivian of Taylor Made who seems to have done a stellar job of mentoring Alice into adulthood.....helping her to become a strong woman. Both Vivian and Alice set an example of how the current generation can work for the well being of future generations.

    While the story is fictional it has great value as socially responsible literature. I recommend to anyone who loves historical fiction, likes pondering why people believe as they do and book clubs who love discussing such.

    Thank you to BookBrowse and Algonquin Books for the opportunity of reviewing a prepublication edition.
  • Martha G. (Columbia, MO)
    Moonrise Over New Jessup
    I was not aware of this phase of the civil rights movement. That a black community wanted to remain a black city, but with individual freedoms and governmental freedoms, rather than an integrated municipality was not an issue I'd ever been exposed to in any history lesson. Moonrise Over New Jessup's characters and setting justify the belief in segregated townships in the late 1950s in Alabama. Their passion for developing their city, their love for one another, and their family values convince the reader of the rightness of their cause. Jamila Minnicks' s writing and language adds sparkle and depth to this unique novel.
  • Patricia L. (Seward, AK)
    Moon Over New Jessup by Jamila Minnicks
    In 1957 in rural Alabama, after a "misunderstanding" with her landlord, Alice Young flees the only home she's known, boarding a bus with a ticket that would only go as far as Birmingham. Chicago and her sister are out of reach. Fate intervenes as she steps off the bus in New Jessup, Alabama to stretch her legs. Finding no "whites only" signs, Alice is confounded about where she is. Surprised by the open community and the kindness of New Jessup citizens she slowly begins to become part of this unique community.
    As her story unfolds, so does the history of New Jessup, its founders and those who are to become its next leaders. Set against the backdrop of our nation blundering around trying to deal with the undealt issues post Civil War, New Jessup is a place apart. And there are many who wish to keep it that way, especially as desegregation is becoming the answer to the problem of blacks and whites not being able to live together on equal grounds.
    Minnicks adroitly maneuvers her characters as they live their seemingly bucolic New Jessup lives while change is swirling around them. As secrets and innuendo inevitably bring the outside world into New Jessup testing the ideals and relationships so long ago formed and nurtured Minnicks gives readers an in-depth understanding of the complexity of living free and equal in our nation.
    Highly recommended for those willing to explore our past to impact the future.

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