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Reviews of Moonrise Over New Jessup by Jamila Minnicks

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

    Paperback:
    Nov 2023, 352 pages

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Book Summary

Winner of the 2021 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, a thought-provoking and enchanting debut about a Black woman doing whatever it takes to protect all she loves at the beginning of the civil rights movement in Alabama.

It's 1957, and after leaving the only home she has ever known, Alice Young steps off the bus into the all-Black town of New Jessup, Alabama, where residents have largely rejected integration as the means for Black social advancement. Instead, they seek to maintain, and fortify, the community they cherish on their "side of the woods." In this place, Alice falls in love with Raymond Campbell, whose clandestine organizing activities challenge New Jessup's longstanding status quo and could lead to the young couple's expulsion—or worse—from the home they both hold dear. But as Raymond continues to push alternatives for enhancing New Jessup's political power, Alice must find a way to balance her undying support for his underground work with her desire to protect New Jessup from the rising pressure of upheaval from inside, and outside, their side of town.

Jamila Minnicks's debut novel is both a celebration of Black joy and a timely examination of the opposing viewpoints that attended desegregation in America. Readers of Brit Bennett's The Vanishing Half and Robert Jones, Jr.'s The Prophets will love Moonrise Over New Jessup.

One

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 brown skin under the Alabama sun. Maybe "family" brings to mind only blood, marital relations, and it's easy to understand that way of thinking. But love by my hand tethers generations to generations, as well as kin by skin, in this place where all in me, and of me, can thrive.

Yet even the strongest thread will snap with constant tension and no slack. The heavens overflow with memories lost. So as life requires I hold taut and I give. In most ways, my people know, if, in some, they never will. But in all ways, my moon rises and sets for family.

So in eternity, the time had come for me to leave the home where I was born. The sun was setting and the half-bald red sweetgum around the fields announced ...

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  • award image

    PEN/Bellwether Prize
    2021

Reviews

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Moonrise Over New Jessup 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 (Lorraine D). In addition to fully developed characters, the love story narration and opposing viewpoints of the civil rights movement, the book is beautifully written. "Cool morning air thick with a low autumn fog," "paper with my dried tears and defenses … went up in smoke" and "exhale to release the inside noise" are examples of imagery that fill the pages of this book. I found joy in the imagery and could see and feel and smell and hear as if I were there. Everyone who loves beautiful writing will enjoy this book (Judith M)...continued

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(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Media Reviews

New York Times
This is in many ways a quiet novel, and Minnicks's writing is at its best when detailing the small, human interactions that mark Alice's transition from country girl to Campbell matriarch... Minnicks provides a nuanced and realistic portrayal of the personal costs of fighting for change.

Kirkus Reviews
A warmly appealing book debut...A thoughtful look at a complex issue.

Library Journal
An outstanding writer, Minnicks excels at capturing the atmosphere and issues of a specific locale at a particular time, the Deep South at the dawn of the civil rights era. This highly recommended title is an excellent choice for book discussion groups and would make a great movie.

Publishers Weekly
Minnicks brings nuance to Alice's dilemma, but the florid prose tends toward the overwrought...There is much to love in these characters and their resilience.

Author Blurb Barbara Kingsolver
With compelling characters and a heart-pounding plot, Jamila Minnicks pulled me into pages of history I'd never turned before.

Author Blurb Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, author of The Revisioners
An immersive and timely recasting of history by a gloriously talented writer to watch. You will fall in love with New Jessup: the town and the book.

Reader Reviews

Linda M. (Ocala, FL)

Revisiting the Civil Rights Struggle
Jamila Minnicks' debut novel Moonrise Over New Jessup takes us back to 1957 and the beginning of the civil rights movement in Alabama. Her compelling characters and engaging prose give us a different lens through which to view the history of the ...   Read More
Carol N. (San Jose, CA)

Filled with warm and impassioned characters
Jamila Minnicks' new thought-provoking novel is about Alice Young, a young black woman doing whatever she needs to do to protect her family/community at the beginning of the civil rights movement in Alabama. It's 1957 and as Alice Young steps off...   Read More
Jennie W. (Denver, CO)

Moonrise Over New Jessup
This book captured me from the first page. The main character, Alice leaves the only home she has ever known only to find a new home she never knew she wanted. Her struggles and conviction carry her and her family through the civil rights era. The ...   Read More
Louise E. (Ocean View, DE)

Interesting Point of View
This novel has an interesting view on segregation. It tells the story of Alice Young living in New Jessup Alabama in the late 1950's. The town is segregated and the black people living there don't want to change. Alice, black herself, came upon the ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Historic Black Communities in the United States

Black-and-white photo showing the house belonging to S.M. Moseley, a mayor of Eatonville, Florida Jamila Minnicks' debut novel Moonrise Over New Jessup takes place in an all-Black town in 1950s Alabama. Residents are wary of integration, preferring to exist in their own space rather than being left to contend with racism in a white-dominated society. In an interview with The Rumpus, Minnicks explains that she wanted to write about this type of community because "Towns and places like New Jessup did exist, and many still do … Between the late 18th and early 20th centuries, it is estimated that more than 1,200 Black towns and settlements were founded in the US." She goes on to specify, "New Jessup embodies some of the larger communities that we built for ourselves … places where Black people owned acreage and the community...

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