White Flights: Race, Fiction, and the American Imagination

White Flights: Race, Fiction, and the American Imagination

by Jess Row


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

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781555978327
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Publication date: 08/06/2019
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 123,186
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

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. One of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists of 2007, he lives in New York and teaches at the College of New Jersey.

Table of Contents

Eating the Blame: The Question of Reparative Writing 3

On Seeing, Waking, and Being Woke 27

Beautiful Shame (or, What We Talk About When We Talk About White Writing) 59

White Flights 101

Parts of Us Not Made at Home 159

What Is the Point of This Way of Dying: A White Blues 205

White Out 243

Acknowledgments 293

Permission Acknowledgments 295

Bibliography 297

Illustration Credits 309

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