Jess Row

Cindy Seip

Jess Row is the author of the novel Your Face in Mine and the story collections The Train to Lo Wu and Nobody Ever Gets Lost. Row’s White Flights (Graywolf Press) offers 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, a collection of seven essays on cultural and literary criticism, 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. This might be the mountains of Idaho in Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping or the claustrophobic households in Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. His close readings of work from well-known writers such as Don DeLillo, Annie Dillard, Richard Ford, and David Foster Wallace examines 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 consider writing as a reparative act. A starred review in Kirkus reviews noted that “Row is troubled by the way fiction “reflects and sustains” notions of whiteness as “normal, neutral, and central.” How do fiction writers, even unconsciously, perpetuate racism?  […] this is a significant contribution to the cultural landscape. A disquieting, deeply thoughtful cultural critique.”