Award-winning Fiction Author
- Rendering Black Voices Honestly in Literature
- Trauma & Triumph: Responsibilities of Black Writers
- Centering Black People in Literature About Our Lives
- The Importance of Documenting Our Stories
- Creativity as Activism
- Creating Space: Your Voice in the Literary Landscape
- Finding Our Roots: When the Connections Seem Lost
“Minnicks reminds us of the way that history gains a buffed gloss when we condense it into smooth movements. Minnicks’ novel keeps us from losing sight of how foggy the path forward actually was.” ―Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“A powerful new voice.” –Jason Mott
Jamila Minnicks’ novel Moonrise Over New Jessup (Algonquin Books, 2023) won the 2021 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. This heartfelt and riveting debut is both a celebration of Black joy and a timely examination of the opposing viewpoints that attended desegregation in America. As the story delves smartly into the distinction between the fight for equal rights and the fight for integration, Minnicks “provides a nuanced and realistic portrayal of the personal costs of fighting for change,” observes The New York Times. Of the work, author Robert Jones Jr. says, “I was awestruck by its beauty, rapt by its originality, and astounded by its depth. But what astonished me most was learning that this is a debut. The craftwork is extraordinary. Was this book dreamed into existence? Did the Ancestors themselves place this story in the writer’s mind?”
In 2022, Jamila was awarded a Tennessee Williams scholarship for the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and she also earned a residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her short fiction and essays have been published in CRAFT, Catapult, Blackbird, The Write Launch, and elsewhere. Her piece, “Politics of Distraction,” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
Jamila is a graduate of the University of Michigan, the Howard University School of Law, and the Georgetown University Law Center. She lives in Washington, DC.
Jamila Minnicks’ novel Moonrise Over New Jessup (Algonquin Books, 2023) won the 2021 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. In 2022, she was awarded a Tennessee Williams scholarship for the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and she also earned a residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her short fiction and essays have been published in CRAFT, Catapult, Blackbird, The Write Launch, and elsewhere. Her piece, Politics of Distraction, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Minnicks is a graduate of the University of Michigan, the Howard University School of Law, and the Georgetown University Law Center. She lives in Washington, DC.
Moonrise Over New Jessup
“Moonrise Over New Jessup is a fresh, gripping civil rights-era story told with verve and tenderness. Jamila Minnicks’s propulsive prose had me flying through these pages. A terrific debut!” —Deesha Philyaw
It’s 1957, and after leaving the only home she has ever known, Alice Young steps off the bus into all-Black New Jessup, 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. As they marry and raise children together, 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. Based on the history of the many Black towns and settlements established across the country, Jamila Minnicks’s heartfelt and riveting debut is both a celebration of Black joy and a timely examination of the opposing viewpoints that attended desegregation in America.
Articles & Audio
Read What’s In Print
• Jamila Minnicks’ debut novel raises complex questions about the costs of integration – Andscape
• 12 Must Read Books of January 2023 – Chicago Review of Books
• 20 new books to read right now. – Lithub
• Overlooked Black History, in Three New Novels – New York Times
• Moonrise Over New Jessup: Themes of Acceptance, Independence, and Identity – Southern Review of Books
• January 2023 Reads for the Rest of Us – Ms. Magazine
• Review of Moonrise Over New Jessup – Library Journal
• 31 Books You Must Read This Year – Essence
Listen to Audio
• Interview with Jamila Minnicks on Moonrise Over New Jessup – Free Library of Philadelphia
Writing to Preserve My Family on the Page
The party’s ended at our place, and the moon promises that it’s past time to clean up. But this fire’s still high, and near-midnight is holding us tight inside her plum embrace. We’re all full, some of us still a little buzzed, and all of us high on remembrance, so this late October chill won’t raise these blood relations, closest kin by skin, and a small few of their guests, from their chairs. Especially now that Major just fixed his mouth to ask for the story of how I came to New Jessup, and about my first few years here.
“Don’t nobody wanna hear all that again,” I say, though that gleam in his eye says he’s waiting to be tickled by his favorite parts of this same old tale. Everybody else is leaning in to hear better, too, and tired eyes have all suddenly perked up. “Y’all need to stop acting like this mess from the party’s finna clean itself.”
But we all know this mess ain’t going nowhere, and that they ain’t going nowhere until the last dish is washed, and the last table put away. So here comes Raymond, leaning close to peck my cheek with that smile on his face. He’s still the handsomest man in all of Alabama, and look at him now—ready to change the world with the fellas behind him and me by his side. Me. By his side. But he’s putting on tonight, with that molasses voice fake-whispering into my ear about my phony protestations:
“Now, Alice, you know ain’t nobody moving until you give them a story. So why don’t you go on ahead and tell them what they wanna hear.”
These woods are nosy, but discreet. They hold plenty of secrets, including some of my own, which are revealed only if you understand the language of blazing sweetgum or magnolias when they flower. The moon is full and low tonight, and creamy-bright against that plum-black sky. Wanting herself to be known, included in the conversation, too. She may change shape, color, come out earlier or stay later as the days go by. But she always, always shows up.