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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
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  • Linda H. (Manitowoc, WI)
    More complicated than we thought
    This novel puts an entirely different spin on segregation and integration. We've often heard that it is important for Blacks to have the opportunity of education with white folks. Integration has been an important goal throughout the civil rights movement. This novel takes a different approach to the issues.

    Alice Young leaves a typical Alabama small town, segregated. She accidentally learns about living in and all-Black community by getting off the train she's on to buy a coke. She looks for the Colored door and doesn't find one. She ends up living in New Jessup, Alabama where there are no Colored entrances. Neither are there white people to look down on her. New Jessup's black population bought their own land, and they have their own quite self-sufficient community. She marries Raymond Campbell, one of the young men whose family helped to establish it. Her possibilities expand to a good job and close connections in the community.

    Its young black men, including Raymond, become secretly invested in making their lives better by declaring their town a municipality so that the white folks across the river don't get to make all the decisions about what they get from the town coffers. That is, until some members become interested in wider social justice issues such as voting and education.

    The book makes a clear case for what is lost in integration by the tensions explored between Alice and her husband as well as the rest of the community. There is no easy solution, of course, as we've learned the hard way.
  • Carol T. (Ankeny, IA)
    Eye opening
    Jamila Minnicks makes the world of Alice, a young black woman in 1960ish Alabama, real to white readers. Alices's (and her family's) constant stress in navigating a white world become our stress. And I didn't realize how refreshing she found living in an all black area, so much that she didn't want it to change. I can't recommend it enough.
  • Carol R. (North Mankato, MN)
    Segregation from another perspective
    When Alice landed in New Jessup, Alabama, early in the civil rights movement, it was the result of circumstance, rather than intention. In New Jessup, Alice found an all black community, which separated itself from white Jessup. This was a view of segregation I was not familiar with and didn't know existed. However, after falling in love with Raymond Campbell, she came to understand the undercurrent of segregation that existed in white/black New Jessup. The book describes the personal struggles involved in choosing a future for the black community. Was "separate but equal" a possibility or was it best to demand change and equality? I found Alice's quest for her missing sister a rather awkward distraction from the story. I kept expecting something terrible or a happy ending for her sister. But perhaps that is another story? I think this book would make a great book club discussion as this aspect of segregation has not been widely discussed.
  • Gaye R. (Coupeville, WA)
    A Different View of Desegregation
    A historical fiction set in 1950s and 1960s Alabama, where women, men, and their families are making decisions daily regarding desegregation, voting rights, community safety and the municipality of their town, New Jessup. Each person asks themselves who can they trust, how much to share and what is the best future for this all-Black community. As couples, friends, family members and the community struggle with these challenges they find themselves in the words of Alice, who is the voice of the story, "telling half-truths, some-truths and nontruths". This book is both enjoyable and educational.
  • Dorothy Minor
    A Novel for Discussion
    Lately, I’ve had the pleasure of reading several debut novels that really grabbed my attention. My most recent entry into debut novels is Moonrise Over New Jessup by Jamila Minnicks. It begins in 1957. I found the first few lines of the story appealing: "The moon rises and sets, stitching eternity together, night by night. Love-spun thread binds family when even years, or blue skies, stand between one and another's touch. Generations travel the same footprints, reach hands to the same climbing branches, and warm the same crown skin under the Alabama sun."

    The story continues from that opening to keep me reading. I discover Alice Young who is alone after her father’s recent death. Her sister Rosie has fled to Chicago, and Alice decides she will go there. Unfortunately, Alice does not have enough money to get out of AL, but less to get to Chicago. She buys a ticket to Birmingham, the furthest she can go on her tiny bit of money. Along the way, another passenger suggests that Alice should get off the bus at a stop to use the restroom and buy herself a Coke because the next stop is a long way off. He even gives her ten cents.

    When she gets off the bus, Alice looks for the colored entrance to the bus station. She asks the shoeshine man where she should enter. He tells her to use the front door, but she is taken aback. Then he tells her she is in New Jessup, an all-Black town. Alice decides to stay there and finds help from Mr. and Mrs. Brown, a kind minister and his wife.

    Alice can already sew by hand, but Mrs. Brown teaches her how to use a sewing machine. Soon, Mrs. Brown introduces Alice to Ms. Vivian Taylor Laramie, owner of the town’s dress shop. Ms. Laramie is impressed with Alice’s sewing skills and hires her. Alice starts a new life in New Jessup, but she still hopes to hear from her sister Rosie.
    As mentioned earlier, it is 1957, the Civil Rights Movement is moving forward. Alice has no intention of becoming involved in politics, but life has a way of throwing the right people into situations at the right time. Alice’s involvement becomes almost necessary when she falls in love with and marries Raymond. He is an activist in the National Negro Advancement Society.

    Not everyone in New Jessup agrees that integration is the way to go. The story heats up as the Civil Rights Movement continues to create change. The story provides historical background and gives readers a portrait of people fighting for rights.

    For book clubs, Moonrise Over New Jessup is a goldmine of topics. Jamila Minnicks, educated as a lawyer, has turned her talents to writing. She is an author to watch.
  • Joyce M. (Arlington, VA)
    Wonderful story about sense of self and family
    Moonrise Over New Jessup is about a young woman, Alice, who flees her hometown in Rensler, Alabama after her her father dies. She has an older sister, Rose, who left suddenly a few years ago bound for Chicago, hoping for a better life. The story takes place during the fifties and early sixties during racial segregation in the South. Alice hasn't heard from her sister in a while but boards a bus for Chicago with very little money. The bus makes a rest stop in New Jessup, Alabama where she is encouraged to stay and seek refuse with the local pastor and his wife.

    I found the story to be believable. It is told with good dosages of appropriate dialect, and "old sayings" from black southern culture. It is told mostly from Alice's point of view. At times when she was reflecting on past events, I found the transitions a bit confusing. Other times when she was lost in thought, it was hard to tell if she was describing her imagination vs a real event.

    There is enough suspense to keep the reader engaged. The historical events mentioned help the main plot's credibility. At the conclusion of the book, you will be more informed about the dilemmas Blacks faced during this time period and why all did not see solutions for improving their lives the same way. I feel that some of the issues described are still relevant today. I highly recommend this book.
  • Donna C. (Cary, NC)
    Immersive historical fiction
    This book was a beautifully written piece of historical fiction. Taking place during the period of integration in the South, we follow a woman who moves to an all-black town in Alabama. While most in the town are content to live in their own bubble, some have an eye toward the equality for blacks being spoken about up north. Alice finds herself caught in the middle. My one quibble would be that I thought the day to day descriptions of Alice's life did drag the storyline down a bit, and I didn't really understand the inclusion of her sister in the plotting of the book. Putting those minor issues aside, it was a great exploration into integration from a different viewpoint.

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