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Book Title

White Flights

Race, Fiction, and the American Imagination
Author 1
Jess Row
White Flights is a meditation on whiteness in American fiction and culture from the end of the civil rights movement to the present. At the heart of the book, Jess Row ties “white flight”—the movement of white Americans into segregated communities, whether in suburbs or newly gentrified downtowns—to white writers setting their stories in isolated or emotionally insulated landscapes, from the mountains of Idaho in Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping to the claustrophobic households in Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. Row uses brilliant close readings of work from well-known writers such as Don DeLillo, Annie Dillard, Richard Ford, and David Foster Wallace to examine the ways these and other writers have sought imaginative space for themselves at the expense of engaging with race.

White Flights aims to move fiction to a more inclusive place, and Row looks beyond criticism to consider writing as a reparative act. What would it mean, he asks, if writers used fiction “to approach each other again”?  Row turns to the work of James Baldwin, Dorothy Allison, and James Alan McPherson to discuss interracial love in fiction, while also examining his own family heritage as a way to interrogate his position. A moving and provocative book that includes music, film, and literature in its arguments, White Flights is an essential work of cultural and literary criticism.

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A bold, incisive look at race and reparative writing in American fiction, by the author of Your Face in Mine

About the Author

Jess  Row
Credit: Sarah Shatz
Jess Row is the author of White Flights: Race, Fiction, and the American Imagination, as well as the novel Your Face in Mine and the story collections The Train to Lo Wu and Nobody Ever Gets Lost. White Flights is his first book of nonfiction. One of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists of 2007, he lives in New York and teaches at the College of New Jersey.
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  • “[Jess Row] open[s] a dialogue about how white literature often ignores nonwhite experiences and narratives, and how to create a space for inclusivity that starts with the writing arena. . . . he’s brilliant and insightful.”Washington Post
  • “[Jess Row] tackles head-on the conundrums most of us like to deflect — such as whether people have a “right” to represent other races in fiction — and he does so thoughtfully and gracefully, but without equivocation or evasion.”Vulture
  • “Row’s humbleness makes [White Flights] possible, as he writes about a place of reconciliation we have yet to reach. . . . Row’s work is a step toward undermining this binary classification, and an opportunity to decode all that has come before.”Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
  • “White Flights is a faultlessly argued collection of essays about how whiteness dominates the American literary imagination. . . . Failing to desegregate and decolonize the white imagination has caused immeasurable political and sociological harm. Row has demonstrated, quite brilliantly, how it causes harm in literature as well.”—Katherine Coldiron, Los Angeles Review of Books
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