Cover Image: Moonrise Over New Jessup

Moonrise Over New Jessup

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Member Reviews

Thank you @netgalley @algonquinbooks and @lioness_tales for the ARC of this book.
First of all, the cover is gorgeous! The writing is just as beautiful. It is thought-provoking and a must read.

Alice relocates to New Jessup Alabama to restart her life. It is the time of desegregation, but New Jessup is a thriving town of only black residents. Alice starts a comfortable life there. She falls in love with Raymond ,who wants to disrupt their way of living.

This is a beautiful debut novel and I can't wait to read more by Minnicks

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I loved the learning more about the early civil rights era and how there were many African Americans opposed to desegregation. I honestly did not know this. It was interesting and though provoking.
I loved Alice's fierce love for her family and her found town. What a gem. 
I loved the cover. A lot. It is right up my aesthetic. I received the netgalley copy of the book. And then the author soon hosted a giveaway of a copy. I entered hoping to get a physical copy as it so beautiful.. and I WON! @jamilaminnick even inscribed it with a thoughtful note. 
Go get yourself a copy! It's a good one!

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*4.5 stars rounded up. This remarkable debut novel of historical fiction presents a fresh take on the early days of the civil right movement. Alice Young is on a bus to Birmingham, Alabama, in October, 1957, when she gets off to 'stretch her legs' for a bit in New Jessup. Her plan has been to get to Chicago to look for her sister Rosie who left home six years ago but whose letters have since stopped coming. Alice looks around the town of New Jessup, wondering where the colored entrance to the cafe might be so she can get herself a coke, but is surprised to learn this town is segregated, Negroes only, and has been for sixty years, while whites live in neighboring Jessup with woods separating the two towns.

Alice is warmly welcomed in the community, finding work as a seamstress, and meeting the man who will become her husband, Raymond Campbell. This story is beautifully written from a woman's point of view, exploring the love of family and home. Alice is brave and outspoken and fiercely protective of the life she has created here in her beloved Alabama. But could Raymond jeopardize their future with his clandestine involvement in civil rights activities?

I can highly recommend this author and her debut novel to you. I received an arc from the author and publisher via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and the opinions expressed are my own.

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4.75 Stars

’For my mother, in her place among the stars.’

This story exposes the tenderness beneath the pain of life in the segregation of Alabama in the 1950’s. Although the story begins, more or less as Alice Young is leaving Alabama in 1957, she takes with her memories of her parents who are now both deceased. The only other family is her sister who she can’t seem to find, which seems to lead to further frustration. When she is the last one in her family remaining, her father now gone for mere weeks, she flees from the home she was born in, the only home she’s ever known, in fear, after her landlord tried to drag her to the toolshed.

’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. Love by my hand tethered generations to generations, as well as kin by skin, in this place where all in me, and of me, can thrive.’

Although this is the only place she’s ever known, she gets on a bus headed toward Birmingham. When the bus stops in New Jessup, a place she’s never been, the first thing that she takes notice of is the lack of the signs she’s seen all her life ’WHITES ONLY’, and she hesitates, uncertain what to do until she realizes that this town’s population has zero Whites within its borders, and while there have been some struggles to maintain that status, it is thriving.

Soon after, Alice finds a room to rent, and a job sewing nearby at a dress shop. Eventually, Raymond Campbell weaves his way into her heart, a young man who neglects to share his ties to the National Negro Advancement Society. Alice just wanted a simple life, but his reassurances that nothing bad will come from his affiliations lull her into believing him. But life isn’t all that simple. Promises made, even with the best intentions, can’t always be kept. Although they live in this Freedmen’s Town, they still face threats, and worse, from the nearby ‘White Only’ neighbors.

A thought-provoking, moving and inspirational story of the beauty of love vs. the abhorrent nature of hate.

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Life in New Jessup made me think. Moonrise Over New Jessup showcases the other side of the fight for integration, by introducing us to Alice whose life has already been hard. Then she comes to New Jessup, by chance, and finds peace. This is not to say that there are no thorns among the bushes, but the fact that there are roses at all is something to take as a blessing.

This is difficult for those who are fighting for integration to understand and this includes Alice’s new love. Jamila Minnicks gives us a glimpse into the other side of the fight that we do not get to see showcased often (at least that I know of, please excuse my ignorance if this is not the case).

I love the lyrical flow of the beginning of Moonrise. I wish this lyrical tone had been continued throughout the rest of the story. Minnicks has a way with words that is at once descriptive and gut-punching.

I am not usually one for historical fiction, but I loved this viewpoint of the integration issue. I completely understood Alice’s position, but I relate it to where I sit on the fight for LGBTQ+ rights especially now that my mother and I were harassed into selling our home of thirty years. Sometimes when life is so hard and you finally find a measure of peace, you don’t want to rock the boat to hope for more that might not come. I really connected with Alice’s position.

Moonrise Over New Jessup is a timely story because people are comfortable in their positions in life while many others are dying, being imprisoned, bullied, and brutalized. It shows the possibility of why people are not taking a step forward. This is a fight that has been going on long before slavery came to the United States. Slavery has been around much longer than this country.

Alice has made me look again at the sunset as I walk my new dog in a new neighborhood where other rainbows live. I step around the shit on the ground and ignore the fighting going on around me much like Alice did in New Jessup. I will say though, that Alice has also made me think twice about just accepting the books we get just because we didn’t get any before. Thank you to Jamila Minnicks for making me take another look at what I am doing right now.

Read Moonrise Over New Jessup.

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This book has many rave reviews out there, so this could be a case of it just not being the right fit for me as a reader. The premise itself is fascinating - a young, black woman finds a new home in a town in Alabama that's been designated as an all-black oasis (free from the integration process that was taking place in other parts of the country in the 1950s). When she falls in love with a local who wants to make changes to how the town is run, she faces losing the only place she's ever felt truly at home.

The writing style itself was tough for me to follow. I felt like maybe the metaphors or symbolism were going over my head, but it seemed like I was sort of tripping over sentences, instead of everything just flowing. This is probably just a personal preference of how I like things to be phrased, but I felt like it was hard to stick to the connections with the characters and setting this way.

But the major issue I had was that pretty much nothing happened in the entire book. There were no major conflicts until there was only about three percent of the book left. There were arguments and discussions but no real consequences for any of the characters. When the main character's worst fear comes to fruition, SPOILER, nothing happens. The book ends without any real resolution or character growth. I felt sort of duped for thinking something major was coming, and then many loose ends were just completely abandoned.

I have to acknowledge that I know I'm reading this book from a perspective of white privilege. I love reading fiction with POCs as main characters because it allows me to expand my worldview a bit. But I just didn't feel like I gained anything from reading this novel.

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New Jessup, Alabama is a revelation to Alice- for the first time, in 19a57, she's in a town where everyone, everyone is "colored." She's ended up there by chance but stays by choice, finding love with Raymond and building a life. Much of this gently written novel is about her daily life but there' s an undercurrent because Raymond is interested in a more forceful expression for civil rights. You'll fall for these characters. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. A good read.

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MOONRISE OVER NEW JESSUP by Jamila Minnicks is a debut novel and Winner of the 2021 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction which is exciting, but I felt that the preview I saw needed further edits. Minnicks sets the story in the late 1950s in a small Alabama town whose residents are all Black. That means they have more flexibility, independence and freedom (e. g., no "Colored" back entrances) than Black citizens who live elsewhere, particularly in the rural South. That absence of fear is initially a shock to Alice Young who ends up in New Jessup after having to flee an abusive landlord in another small Alabama town. Over time and through the kindness of New Jessup residents like the Pastor and local dressmaker, Alice comes to value the quiet certitude which of her new life, even falling in love and getting engaged. There is tension, though, when her boyfriend, Raymond, and his friends impatiently embrace National Negro Advancement Society (NNAS) principles and advocate for municipality rights for New Jessup. Agitators want to push for full integration and town elders prefer to preserve the status quo. The text felt repetitive and slow in places, but Minnicks ably illustrates the courage which was needed to face opposition from multiple sides and to risk the loss of current rights while fighting for equal privilege. Readers may appreciate a trigger warning due to use some offensive racial epithets.

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Alice leaves the only home she’s ever known and finds herself stepping off a bus into the all-Black town of New Jessup, Alabama. Many people in the town are known for rejecting integration as a means for Black social advancement, with Raymond Campbell being one of them. With Alice falling in love with Raymond and falling in love with the town she’s settling into, she must find a way to protect both her town and her family from the upheaval that this political cause has wrought.

Such a beautifully written novel, with characters that I loved from the beginning. While heartbreaking in its naked honesty and with its gorgeous prose, I couldn’t have imagined any other book stealing my heart the way this one did.

The publisher provided ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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In 1957 Alice flees her hometown in Alabama and ends up in New Jessup, Alabama ... an all-Black town. In fact, it is not really a town ... simply a section of the town of Jessup separated from the white part of the town by swamp and forest. As the push toward integration grows over the next handful of years, the citizens of New Jessup are faced with choices as the status quo may no longer be a tenable alternative.

If you are looking for an electrifying plot, this novel will not be for you; however, the characters are all wonderfully developed and provide a very distinct view of differing Black perspectives in the earliest days of the push toward national integration.

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Beautifully written an author whose lyrical writing draws you right into the story the characters emotionally moving.I was sad to reach the last page.Will be recommending.# netgalley #algonquinbooks.

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This is a story about the Civil Rights Movement in an all-Black town where the townspeople object to integration. In line with. Charles Blows’ “The Devil You Know”, the story paints a picture of a peaceful all-Black existence (but of course, not without threats from the white surrounding townspeople.). This is the other side of the Civil Rights Movement, told through the eyes of a black women who started life in a white world and then stumbled upon this town of peace. Instead of upsetting the apple cart with desegregation plans, the goal of the town is to continue to be segregated. A different view of history that needed to be written. The characters and the storyline are well developed and the writing is great, but don’t wait for something to “happen”- just enjoy the journey this book takes you on. Thank you NetGalley for a ARC.

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This novel has many layers. It presents a story that feels real and human, but also poses larger questions about the intersection of what is important for me (my family, those I love) and what is important for the larger world/ society. This work sheds light on an important aspect of civil rights that is not often considered or discussed. Definitely an author to watch---i found my breath caught in my throat more than once. This is well worth your time.

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One thing that comes to mind about this book is how lyrical it is. The prose is silky and so smooth, it just flows. I am not surprised when later I found that this won PEN/Bellwether prize.

The book starts in 1957 with Alice Young leaving behind the only home she has known after her parents pass away in search of her sister who left for Chicago. The bus she boards stops at New Jessup and her life changes for ever. The political tension and societal change brew in the community, Alice fights to keep her life with her family stable and safe. I was fascinating to learn about this slice of life in Alabama.

Something I shouldn’t talk about but that is all my head is the ending. You can feel the build up when reading…well, you will say ‘that’s every book’…but believe me when I say..this was different. Brick by brick the ending was bolilt.

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The story begins in 1957. Alice, forced to leave the only home she has ever known in Alabama, gets on a bus and heads for Chicago to look for her sister who she has not heard from in some time. The bus stops in New Jessup, Alabama and Alice gets off and decides not to get back on. She is in a blacks-only town, founded by freed slaves many years before. The town is still being run by those descendants of the founders, and they are very happy being segregated from the white town across the river. There are businesses owned by blacks, One can drink from any of the water fountains in town. Front store entrances can be used. Alice falls in love with the town and with a son of a founding father.
The younger generation, including her husband, are involved in freedom movements that are much greater than New Jessup. Can the town and its residents maintain their independence, and can they keep themselves and the residents safe while the rest of the South is in turmoil?

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Jamila Minnicks pens a thought-provoking fictional tale that reexamines socially relevant concepts surrounding integration, segregation, self-rule, and collective agency. Set in rural Alabama in the late 1950’s, it does not shy away from the bigotry, civil unrest, and violence against non-white citizens that prevailed during that era. What is different is the fictional town of New Jessup - a prospering self-managed, all Black oasis that (after decades of its forefathers’ backbreaking labor of its forefathers) evolved from overpriced abandoned swampland into a safe haven for those willing to embrace its ideals of self-sufficiency, self-respect, self-reliance, hard work – and most importantly, a desire to maintain and protect this way of life.

The story opens and continues via the lenses of a recently orphaned and destitute young woman, Alice, who accidentally stumbles upon New Jessup while fleeing her childhood home under threatening and heartbreaking circumstances. She is immediately embraced and nurtured by the townsfolk; her social status climbs when she rather quickly marries one of the town founders’ grandsons who has “radical” views that would alter lifestyles and challenge the mindset of (not to mention instill fear within) the older generations.
As Alice embraces the role of consummate housewife, gardener extraordinaire, and new mother, her interactions with supporting characters (many of whom I found much more interesting and colorful than her) explore differing views on traditional gender roles and responsibilities - i.e. women who want to “be'' the needed (and overdue) change, who are active politically, seeking higher education, traveling the world, etc. Sprinkings of peace-loving spiritually led MLK, Jr, WEB DuBois’s critical analyses, and Booker T. Washington’s go-along-to-get-along rhetoric and philosophies are voiced via character debates and interactions on the pros and cons of equal rights, voting, forced integration, elective segregation, and change management. These topics alone are enough for fans of social critiques of this era.

The writing is very good - descriptions are vivid, social concepts and cleverly woven into the plot lines such that its content and context are spot on! There is a lot to like and learn from this offering – it will be praised and will win more awards, for sure. There is no doubt many will love it and while I liked and appreciated its value to the Social Justice/Historical Fiction genre, I struggled with the overall pacing and the lead characters. I realize I will be in the minority, but this book took me a while to finish. It is a character driven novel that relies heavily on two main characters who are noble and nice but dull, imo. The passages surrounding their courtship and daily married life (including the banal spats) were even duller. There are other supporting characters that give the book life – it was them that kept my interest more than Alice and her husband. Two other annoyances: A major subplot of the book concerning Alice’s sister really went nowhere and seemingly any character(s) with spunk, mystery, and agency had very limited exposure and literally fell off the pages – I’m guessing reappearances in sequel(s), perhaps?

Definitely recommended for fans of Historical Fiction.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an opportunity to review.

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Moonrise Over New Jessup by Jamila Minnicks

334 Pages
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: January 10, 2023

Fiction (Adult), General Fiction (Adult), Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, 1950s, Racism, Segregation, Multicultural, Civil Rights, Alabama

Alice Young is alone in Alabama. Her father recently died, the landlord is making advances at her, and her sister left home heading to Chicago. She grabs what she can and heads to the bus station, but she only has enough money to get to Birmingham, Alabama. During the bus ride, she is sitting next to a man, and he encourages her to get off the bus at the rest stop to stretch her legs. She asks the shoeshine man where the Colored Only entrance is located. He tells her everyone uses the same doors around here. Segregation does not exist in New Jessup. Alice cannot believe her eyes. Here is a town where everyone looks like her and is treated equally. She believes she has found paradise and decides to stay for a while.

The book has a steady pace, the characters are well developed, and it is written in the first-person point of view. Alice is a young woman who has been traumatized and likes everything about New Jessup. Unfortunately, others in the community believe change is good and are pushing for integration. She is a strong independent woman. This is an amazing look at segregation/integration from a different perspective. The author has a wonderful writing style that really makes the reader feel engaged and a part of the story. If you like or want to see a different perspective from a difficult time in American history, I definitely recommend you give this book a try.

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Thank you Netgally and Algonquin Books for allowing me to read an ARC of this novel for an honest review.

This is a gorgeous debut novel from award winning writer Jamil Minnicks. This is a beautiful historic novel about a Black Women in 1957 coming across the all Black town New Jessup, Alabama. The story, characters, and prose of this novel are absolutely stunning. I cannot wait to see what else Jamil Minnicks writes because I know it will be just as stunning as this novel.

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A young woman trying to get to Chicago to find her sister ends up staying in an all black town in Alabama.

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5 stars. I would give it more if I could. Jamila Minnicks is brilliant. Seriously. She's phenomenal. She also reminded me of just how terrible our U.S. education system is, as young me would have been completely lost with zero foundation of information for this novel.

Alice steps off a bus, only a few towns over from her Alabama hometown, into a place where there are no "whites only" signs, no backdoors for people of color. In fact, there's not one white person to be seen. She had accidentally stumbled upon New Jessup, a town reclaimed by its Black residents, allowing for its community members to live safely within its walls during the tumultuous time of the 1950s-1960s. Not only does Minnicks address segregation/desegregation in ways that I have never before experienced, but she also strategically creates characters who follow the vastly different ideologies of Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and MLK Jr. and explores how these ideas affect the generational shift, classism, gender roles, and political upheaval. All of this is explored while focusing on Alice's life, her marriage to one of New Jessup's founding fathers' grandsons, her search for her missing sister, her balance of work and home life, and the inner struggle of wanting a better world for her daughter while dealing with the uncertainty of what that looks like exactly. Highly recommended.

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