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Reviews of The New Earth by Jess Row

The New Earth

A Novel

by Jess Row

The New Earth by Jess Row X
The New Earth by Jess Row
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2023, 592 pages

    Paperback:
    Jul 2, 2024, 592 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Chloe Pfeiffer
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About this Book

Book Summary

A globe-spanning epic novel about a fractured New York family reckoning with the harms of the past and confronting humanity's uncertain future, from award-winning author Jess Row

For fifteen years, the Wilcoxes have been a family in name only. Though never the picture of happiness, they once seemed like a typical white Jewish clan from the Upper West Side. But in the early 2000s, two events ruptured the relationships between them. First, Naomi revealed to her children that her biological father was actually Black. In the aftermath, college-age daughter Bering left home to become a radical peace activist in Palestine's West Bank, where she was killed by an Israeli Army sniper.

Now, in 2018, Winter Wilcox is getting married, and her only demand is that her mother, father, and brother emerge from their self-imposed isolations and gather once more. After decades of neglecting personal and political wounds, each remaining family member must face their fractured history and decide if they can ever reconcile.

Assembling a vast chorus of voices and ideas from across the globe, Jess Row "explodes the saga from within—blows the roof off, so to speak, to let in politics, race, theory, and the narrative self-awareness that the form had seemed hell-bent on ignoring" (Jonathan Lethem). The New Earth is a commanding investigation of our deep and impossible desire to undo the injustices we have both inflicted and been forced to endure.

The Upper West Side Book of The Dead

Recovered from: Drafts Folder (Unsent Message)

From: "Bering Wilcox"
Last saved: March 12, 2003 at 9:13:44 PM EST
To: "Patrick Hakuin Wilcox"
Subject: The Upper West Side Book of the Dead
Wadi Aboud, March 12

When the journey of my life has reached its end,
and since no relatives go with me from this world,
not even Great-Aunt Estie, who survived the Shoah,
two husbands, one in semiprecious stones,
one in schmattes—who always patted the couch
and said, "sit next to me, you make me feel younger,"
while she told the filthiest jokes—
when the journey of my life has reached its end,
in other words, may the peaceful and wrathful buddhas
send out the power of their compassion
and clear away the darkness of ignorance.

When parted from beloved friends, wandering alone—
as if I got up out of my sleeping bag, in Palestine,
and decided to walk home, as if there were
no barricades, no barbed wire, no blast walls,
and ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The New Earth works for a few reasons, one of which is Row's unequivocal condemnation of Israel's occupation of Palestine and apartheid state, from a Jewish-American perspective (the Wilcox family is culturally Jewish but barely religious). The other is his wide-ranging curiosity and deep research. There's so much context here—so much to learn and to consider—about everything from the Zapatista movement to Israel's colonial history, to quantum entanglement to ocean science. There's even a plotline about Holocaust art forgery...continued

Full Review Members Only (929 words)

(Reviewed by Chloe Pfeiffer).

Media Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Richly imagined, reflexively neurotic and frequently quite dazzling.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Row's magisterial latest (after the essay collection White Flights) traces the complex dynamics of a New York City family on a geopolitical scale... . Moments of levity draw the reader in ... and the author pulls off many moving metafictional moments... This is Row's best work yet.

Booklist
Stupendously good…. Like Franzen's The Corrections (2001), this is a family saga with a global perspective, sweeping across borders and time, from Israel to Chiapas to the northeastern U.S., from the utopian communes of the 1970s to the present, and exploring the impending climate disaster, colonialism, race, identity, and wealth, along with some metafictional musing. Each character's story is a fascinating portal into contemporary life, adding up to a deeply moving, wonderfully engaging, and truly remarkable novel of the times.

Author Blurb Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen
Jess Row interrogated American whiteness with great creative power in Your Face in Mine and White Flights. The New Earth extends his thinking on historical amnesia and erasure, race and family, in extraordinary ways.

Author Blurb Jordy Rosenberg, author of Confessions of the Fox
Riveting and brilliant, The New Earth throws down a gauntlet around Jewishness, diaspora, and the historical production of whiteness in America with such tremendous force that the novel feels epochal. Indeed, it is hard to imagine that the American literary landscape will be quite the same after the effects of this work are felt. A novel at once sprawling and deeply intimate, I had to stop reading many times simply to marvel at Row's creation of this family and the book that holds them.

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Beyond the Book

The Zapatistas

Nighttime photograph of graffiti on a wall reading 'LOS ZAPATISTAS VIVEN' (The Zapatistas live) in black all-caps lettering, with lights in courtyard visible in background to the right In Jess Row's novel The New Earth, the character Zeno's mother was a Zapatista in Chiapas, the southernmost state in Mexico, where she was killed. The Zapatistas are an indigenous peasant movement from Chiapas named for the Mexican Revolution leader Emiliano Zapata. They formed in 1983, organized secretly for 10 years, and then gained worldwide recognition in 1994, when they incited a rebellion against the government. The resistance movement still exists today and remains proudly undefeated by the state.

Mexico has the largest indigenous population in Latin America, and Chiapas is over one-quarter indigenous. Indigenous people have historically been excluded from basic services such as education and healthcare there; and although ...

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