A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice

One of “22 Books to Read This Spring,” The New York Times

A Lit Hub Most Anticipated Book of Spring 2023

A The Millions Most Anticipated Book of 2023

A Publishers Weekly Book of the Week

“Although it takes place five years ago, The New Earth is very much a novel of our times. Early in the book, Sandy talks about “congestion”: Congestion of emotions. A calcification of feelings. Too much feeling over too much time.” This resonates in a country that’s been put on its heels by COVID, political unrest, and bigotry — America keeps sustaining wound after wound, with never enough time to heal from the previous ones. The pain of the Wilcox family, and its dissolution, echoes the country’s current suffering. The New Earth isn’t an easy book to write about — it’s elusive by design. What is this novel, that talks to and about itself, that asks unanswerable questions? The closest answer might be: It’s a modern epic that takes an unsparing look at family and national dynamics that nobody really wants to confront. It’s ambitious and magnificent, the rare swing for the fences that actually connects.” —Michael Schaub, NPR

“A rich, rollicking novel about a dysfunctional Jewish clan from the Upper West Side and the 2003 West Bank tragedy that derailed them. . . . [Row] gracefully balances multiple registers to craft a reader’s delight. . . . Row retains a deep affection for his cast, arguably more than they deserve. He breathes wondrous life into them. Their neuroses — so many neuroses — click into place. Each character’s thoughts scamper like mice through mazes, a science experiment gone wrong, and yet the data they yield bolsters a tale that’s both experimental and Balzacian, lighthearted and dead serious. . . . A lasting peace may not be an option for the Wilcoxes, but anything is possible.”—Hamilton Cain, Washington Post

“Richly imagined, reflexively neurotic and frequently quite dazzling…This is a book of warty, messy things, intractable and strange — but stumbling, maybe, toward a state of grace.” —Leah Greenblatt, New York Times Book Review

“The traumas of “The New Earth” repeatedly prompt bold forays into metafiction. Such writing has become unfashionable, regarded as a withered branch of postmodernism, but when Row brings up his art form, he enhances the drama. For instance, as Winter runs her errands and frets over her pregnancy: “She is moving, the novel is moving. It is unrelenting.” The text becomes part of the fix she’s in, unrelenting as a xenophobic president or the baby in her belly. So too, after Winter and her mother make plans to meet, both women reach out for their lovers: “At the same moment, because a novel can do this, Naomi turns to Tilda and says, ‘I need you there for moral support.’”…Ultimately, “The New Earth” is all about resurrection. If Row isn’t pulling a jumper back to safety, he’s reasserting the value of fiction about fiction — or finding fresh ground for the American family novel. The panorama that comes to life around [these characters] feels like a masterpiece for our fractured time.” —John Domini, Los Angeles Times

“In his previous books, including the brilliant Your Face in Mine, Jess Row forayed into the well-trod territory of race and identity, but in a way that felt thrillingly provocative rather than button-pushing. He continues that bent (even takes it up a notch, with an Israel-Palestine side narrative) in his ambitious latest about an unhappy Jewish family from New York’s Upper West Side beset by issues of what and how to be.” Toronto Globe & Mail

“Row’s deeply ambitious, genre-defying work…hops back and forth in time, shifts between various points of view, and incorporates a massive amount of politics and theory on race, Zen Buddhism, climate change, the history of Israel and Palestine, and the novel itself as a literary form. ‘Like an egg cracked over a pan,” Row writes, “the story spreads until it stops. It finds its boundaries by exhausting its materials.’ Much of the novel is told via dialogue: This is a book of discourse, in every sense of the word, and its happenings are told rather than shown. Characters speak to each other or to themselves at immense length, and we have access to their emails and texts. If the book seems overstuffed to the point of being overdetermined—one storyline involves the Zapatista uprising, for example—it’s a testament to Row’s talent to say that, somehow, he manages to tie it all together.” Kirkus (Starred Review)

“A stupendously good novel…Like The Corrections, The New Earth is a family saga with a global perspective, sweeping across borders and time, from Israel to Chiapas to the northeastern U.S., from the utopian communes of the 1970s to the present, and exploring the impending climate disaster, colonialism, race, identity, and wealth, along with some metafictional musing. Each character’s story is a fascinating portal into contemporary life, adding up to a deeply moving, wonderfully engaging, and truly remarkable novel of the times”— Alexander Moran, Booklist

“The always-perceptive Jess Row is back with a complex family epic, in which a Jewish clan is torn apart when its patriarch barely dodges disbarment, its matriarch tells her children that her father was Black, and their youngest child is killed by a sniper while protesting the Israeli occupation of Palestine. But years later, when their middle child, Winter, gets married, the whole family must come back together, despite difficulties both personal and political.” Lit Hub

“A century which began with 9/11, and has so far seen economic collapse, a ground war in Europe, a global pandemic, and the rise of neo-fascism is painfully interesting. Jess Row’s latest novel interlays these interesting times on a family drama among the privileged Wilcoxes of the Upper East Side, from 2000 to 2018. The global perspective becomes synonymous with the vantage point of daughter Winter Wilcox, who on the eve of her wedding must grapple not just with her estranged family, but the ways in which her personal tragedies from years coincide with both parental secrets and historical injustices. “Disguising your origins is a deeply American impulse,” Row wrote in 2014, “but that doesn’t make it any less compromising,” a theme heartily interrogated in The New Earth.” The Millions

“Row’s magisterial latest…traces the complex dynamics of a New York City family on a geopolitical scale. In 2000, Wilcox patriarch Sandy, a lawyer, narrowly avoids disbarment after unwittingly aiding a client of fraud. A year later, his wife, Naomi, a geophysicist at Columbia University, reveals that her biological father was Black. Then, in 2003, their youngest child, Bering, is fatally shot by an Israeli Defense Force sniper while protesting the Israeli occupation of Palestine’s West Bank. After Bering’s death, her oldest brother, Patrick, goes to Nepal to become a monk. Sandy and Naomi’s marriage, meanwhile, has been faltering since the late 1970s, when they founded a Zen monastery in Vermont, and following a failed suicide attempt a decade after Bering’s death, Sandy leaves Naomi and retreats to Vermont, where he takes a vow of silence. Middle child Winter, a 20-something immigration lawyer, is marrying Zeno, an undocumented citizen, and wants nothing more than the family to be together at their wedding. Winter and Naomi also butt heads, big time, on race (Naomi insists they’re white; Winter identifies as multiracial). As the Wilcoxes reckon with the limits of what they can bear, Winter’s request proves tough to meet. Moments of levity draw the reader in (Sandy on shaving his head: “I look like Mr. Clean, he thinks, allowing himself one glimpse in the mirror, or Yul Brynner”), and the author pulls off many moving metafictional moments (Sandy, again, sensing the text of Row’s novel: “He feels it embrace him, one animal embracing another; it smells like wet fur”). This is Row’s best work yet.” Publisher’s Weekly (Starred Review)

“Jim Meskimen takes the pivotal role of the narrator in this dazzling audiobook with a thoughtful tone and sure-handed style. Among an exceptionally talented cast, Robin Miles captures the angsty brilliance of matriarch Naomi; she smoothly performs the character’s contradictory combination of self-delusion and self-awareness. Jason Culp portrays her estranged husband, the suicidal Sandy, with eloquent restraint. The children in this Manhattan-based shattered family–Patrick, Winter, and Bering–are voiced evocatively by Josh Bloomberg, Inés del Castillo, and Jaime Lamchick. Each gives these heady, flawed yet compelling characters individuality and grace. A work of metafiction, this novel breaks down the fourth wall as the complex plot moves forward. The many voices in this timely audiobook present a fascinating portrait of a family in distress.” Audiofile Magazine (Earphones Award Winner)


One of the New York Times’s “11 New Books To Watch For in August”

One of Vulture’s “7 New Books To Read This August”

A Lit Hub Most Anticipated Book of Summer 2019

A The Millions Most Anticipated Book of 2019

A Nylon “Best Book of Summer 2019”

“Row works like a Freudian analyst in these searching, loosely structured essays…he analyzes postwar fiction with a loving sternness that avoids didacticism even as he pingpongs among cultural artifacts, decoding everything from Don DeLillo’s ‘Underworld’ to emo music…’There are only more or less awkward ways for me to name’ racial injustice, Row says of the ongoing conversation he hopes we’ll join him in. Despite, or perhaps because of, these flaws and the discomfort they inspire, we should accompany Row through this important inquiry.” —Ismail Muhammad, New York Times Book Review

“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.” —Boris Kachka, New York Magazine

“Brilliant and insightful… Row ultimately accomplishes his goal of raising ‘the possibility of a new method.’ Now it’s up to the larger writing community to translate his plea into action.” —Eric Farwell, Washington Post

“Row’s humbleness makes the book possible, as he writes about a place of reconciliation we have yet to reach. Over the seven essays, he sustains an ache for it, partly through examples of white writers whose work dares to be honest about race, including Lorrie Moore, Allan Gurganus, Dorothy Allison and Jonathan Lethem, and partly through the resonance of a quote cited in the introduction, pulled from the liner notes to punk band Operation Ivy’s 1991 compilation CD: ‘At certain points during some shows, the reconciled world is already here, at least in that second, at that place.’” —David Varno, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Moving outside of white literature’s often isolated and emotionally numb terrain, Row discusses how reparative writing can effect reconciliation. White Flights is for readers fascinated by race and reparative writing, now and in American history, and the transformative potential of literature to change minds and emphasize our common humanity.” —William Grabowski, Library Journal (Starred review)

“Row does not excuse himself as a writer from the “white flights” he examines, and he is self-reflective on the question of whether or not white American writers can ever transcend the “horror of performing within the family romance of whiteness.” “Could fiction,” he asks, paraphrasing Nina Simone, “be a way of knowing what it feels like to be free?” Row means for this combination of self-examination and cultural criticism to help make way for a more inclusive fiction; writing, he argues, can be part of the endless process of reconciliation, a “reparative act” that helps writers of fiction “to approach each other again”…Ultimately, Row has produced a thoughtful and timely meditation that serves as a call to white writers to consider the questions: “What’s next? What can we do with the time we have?” —Keira Williams, PopMatters

“In challenging ways of writing—even, for white writers, the choice to write at all—Row is careful to acknowledge that, as a white man, he can merely ask questions and grope for progress, rather than offer a solution. He also mines personal material, including his childhood in the Black Hills of South Dakota, land that by treaty belongs to the Lakota and is illegally occupied by white people (like Row’s own family). This intelligent collection is often deeply engaged in realms of philosophy and literary theory; its subject matter may be discomfiting for white readers and writers…There is something for every reader, however, in the message that fiction not only reflects but acts upon real life, and that each of us is obliged to act for justice, in reading and writing as in life.” —Julia Kastner, Shelf Awareness

“In this startling essay collection, Jess Row catalogs the various ways white writers erase, marginalize, and displace racial issues, a concept he calls “white flights.” Utilizing a stunning range—one paragraph moves effortlessly from Nas to Jacques Derrida—Row exposes how many writers use space, time, and style to enact these flights. Across seven substantial chapters, he explains the different manifestations of this phenomena: Marilynne Robinson’s isolated worlds, how Gordon Lish’s edits erased race from Raymond Carver’s stories, the questionable claims to “everyman” status of Richard Ford and Jonathan Franzen’s novels, or how Anne Tyler’s novels, nearly all set in Roland Park, Baltimore, completely ignore the racial history of this area. Perhaps most interesting is the assertion that shame is a key component of these texts, particularly visible in the works of David Foster Wallace. But Row does not only issue blistering critiques, he also provides hope. Drawing on his personal experiences and the work of James Baldwin and other authors, he develops the idea that interracial art represents the possibility of “reparative writing.” Full of brilliant readings and beautifully written, this mind-altering work of criticism establishes Row as one of the preeminent cultural critics of our age.” —Booklist (Starred review)

“As a white writer with a complicated racial identity and father to two multiracial children, 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? Is it possible for fiction to contribute to a process of reconciliation and reparation? Reparative writing asks writers “to bring their own sadness or their own bodies into play when writing about race or racism,” including feelings of “paralysis, isolation, or alienation.” In his view, the white American literary community—which he reveals by examining a prodigious number of writers, scholars, and critics—rather than struggling to express these deep-seated feelings, takes on “postures of avoidance and denial.” This avoidance, Row asserts, is a form of “white flight,” a term usually associated with “abandonment of the ideals of integration” by whites fleeing urban African American, Latinx, or immigrant communities to suburban homes surrounded by “enormous lawns” that serve as “a buffer or barrier.” Applied to writing, “white flight” encapsulates “the desire not to have one’s visual field constantly invaded by inconveniently different faces—relationships that are fraught, unfixed, capable of producing equal measures of helplessness and guilt.” Row’s urgent desire to confront questions of race is compelled in part by his own background, which he shares in engrossing autobiographical vignettes. On one side of his family, his ancestors were among the first white settlers on land forcibly taken from the Lakota; on the other were immigrants from the racially mixed Azores. But his concern transcends his own background: Is it possible, he wonders, for white writers ever to escape “the horror of performing within the family romance of whiteness”? …A disquieting, deeply thoughtful cultural critique.” —Kirkus Reviews (Starred review)

“This fascinating book explores the concepts of white flight and gentrification through the lens of whiteness within American culture—specifically fiction. Jess Row closely examines the way the giants of late-20th century American fiction—people like Jonathan Franzen, David Foster Wallace, Marilynne Robinson, Don DeLillo, and Richard Ford—restricted their work to inherently white milieus, making sure that there would be no interrogation of the issue of race within their pages. Row posits that fiction’s segregation is self-imposed, often in the name of the same kind of “safety” that led whites to flee cities and settle in de facto (though sometimes literal) gated communities; he’s sure that fiction can be used to start conversations, to breach the boundaries we’ve been told are impermeable. Row’s writing is consistently compelling, a necessary read for anyone who wants their art to be challenging, not merely comforting.” —Kristin Iversen, Nylon


A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice

A San Francisco Chronicle, Miami Herald, and Booklist Best Book of 2014

An Electric Literature Best Book of 2014

“Your Face in Mine more than fulfills the promise of [Jess Row’s] first two books. It puts him on another level as an artist. He doesn’t shy away from the hard intellectual and moral questions his story raises, or from grainy philosophical dialogue, but he submerges these things in a narrative that burns with a steady flame. You turn the pages without being aware you are turning them…There’s some Jonathan Lethem in Mr. Row’s street-level awareness of culture, popular and otherwise. There’s some Saul Bellow in his needling intelligence. . Necessity is a mother of invention, this novel declares, but so is uncut human desire. “How far in the future can it be,” Martin asks, “when people say, I don’t want to be me anymore?—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

Your Face in Mine is flat-out brilliant…Kelly is an astonishing character, tormented, compromised but self-aware enough to know it, cynical but without self-deceit…in the interstices of the action, in the darkness and confusion of [a] conflicted consciousness, Row finds his most radical honesty and insight.” —David Ulin, Los Angeles Times

“In his first novel Row drives into this inflammatory subject head-on with thought-provoking bravado and the sort of guts that make you fall in love with the versatility and power of fiction all over again.” —Connie Ogle, Miami Herald

Jess Row sees the future in Your Face in Mine—a provocative and exhiliratingly bold examination of race in America.” —Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair

Row’s brilliant new novel, Your Face in Mine, pursues a bold and roomy premise: What if you could change your race? Not superficially, with makeup and a wig, but by cosmetic surgery? This book feels new not only because it inverts and biologizes racial passing, but also because it takes seriously the last few decades of identity politics. In Roth’s The Human Stain and Anatole Broyard’s Kafka Was the Rage, race is merely a roadblock to a true, American self. In Your Face in Mine, race is the road, for black and white alike.” Bookforum

Daring…refreshing…Row excels at critiquing white privilege and empty liberalism.” —Emily Raboteau, The New York Times Book Review

Your Face in Mine’s premise is headline-catching, but the subtlety and grace with which Row tells the story is even more remarkable. Before he ran into Martin, Kelly was living life as a complacent “Good White Person,” the kind who knows very few black people but “mention[s], at parties, that rates of incarceration for black males are six times the national average.” Drawn into Martin’s world, Kelly dives into the raw, the bleeding, and the not-even-close-to-postracial state of race in America. We book reviewers are fond of calling books ‘brave,’ but Your Face in Mine is genuinely courageous.” —Annalissa Quinn, NPR

“Your Face in Mine is one of the most gripping, fiendishly smart books I’ve read in years — not just about race, but in general…Could a “post-racial” society be one where race is a consumer or esthetic choice like any other? Pitting nature versus nurture versus capitalism, Row has spun this question into a speculative game, one that brilliantly plays on our assumptions, insecurities and obsessions.” The Toronto Star

Your Face in Mine isn’t a “well-handled” or “sensitive” treatment of race; it’s provocative, uneasy, and audacious. As with the best speculative works, it presents a hypothetical, literally post-racial future to comment on our very racial present. The result is a unique entry into an urgent conversation.” —Kim Fu, The Rumpus

Your Face in Mine owes something to classic stories of passing like The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, by James Weldon Johnson, and the 1931 satire Black No More, by George Schuyler, in which blacks rush to embrace a new scientific process to become white. But if Your Face in Mine has elements of the traditional passing novel, it doesn’t stay in that lane…Farah Jasmine Griffin, a professor of English and African-American Studies at Columbia University, calls Mr. Row’s book “a new take on race,” offering the unusual perspective of the white Kelly and the ex-white Martin meditating on racial identity and raising questions about the very meaning of race.” —Felicia R. Lee, The New York Times

“It’s when Row plumbs the relationship between Kelly and Martin that the novel sings with a unique kind of yearning—for the selfish piety of youth, for the parents they did and didn’t have—and that’s a powerful magic. But this is a story finally about alienation, and Row finds that in the final pages, to great, sad success.” —Tod Goldberg, Las Vegas Weekly

“Your Face in Mine has ambition and scope, a concept that is creepy and provocative, and that makes it matter as a piece of literature. It’s a serious novel with serious ideas, and it’s good to see a young writer wrestling with race, poking at a beehive. It’s not a book to read lightly, and that may be the highest compliment that I can give it.” —Elisabeth Donnelly, Flavorwire

“In Martin’s cynical perversion of the American Dream, self-reinvention takes a back seat to the commodification of self-reinvention…[Your Face in Mine] delivers…sci-fi-ish frisson and subversiveness.” Boston Globe

A deeply intelligent and powerful book…virtually every page contains a clever insight, sharp sense of irony and humor, or moving emotion.” —Thomas Chatterton Williams, San Francisco Chronicle

Your Face in Mine is a philosophical thriller.” O Magazine

“Jess Row’s haunting new novel, Your Face In Mine, is an invitation to the future, an era bound only by the limits of imagination, money, and technology. It’s a time when you can edit anything about yourself—your location, occupation, your status and even your race—if you are a part of the right network.”

“Your Face in Mine is a searing account of race in America today. It might be the best book I have read all year. It’s certainly the most thought-provoking. Run to the store, buy it, read it, and watch the future unfold in its image.” —Brian Hurley, Fiction Advocate

“Jess Row hasn’t just written a book to start debates, he’s written a book with enough substance and nuance to start really good ones.” Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Your Face in Mine shows signs of genius.” Buffalo News

“Row challenges our understanding of how much of our identity we’re born with and how much we choose…Your Face in Mine leads to thoughtful insights.” Entertainment Weekly

“Jess Row’s bravura debut novel seethes with issues, plots and backstories…Row’s muscular prose and ­fecund ideas are the guiding force throughout. So much comes vigorously alive, from teenage bands to adult rebirths, from Kelly’s insecurities to Martin’s delusions. On the strength of this, Row is now one to watch, a writer with talent as audacious as his subject matter.” The National (Abu Dhabi)

“Compelling…an incredibly smart book.The Onion AV Club

“Though this spectacular tale of racial redesign is a work of science fiction, it throws light on the contemporary world. Row is critical of the way that existing cosmetic and surgical procedures are immersed in a global cultural politics of race where whiteness so often features as the touchstone of beauty. By exploring how a variety of racial identities – African American, Korean, Chinese – might describe ideal bodies, Row does justice to a more complicated cultural terrain where the embodiment of racial difference becomes a means of exploration, imagination and self-transformation.The Conversation (UK)

The plot is dazzling; the moral issues posed by racial reassignment are disturbing.  Fortunately, the novel does not avoid the ethical issues or the troubling possibility that what Your Face in Mine presents as fiction will too soon become fact, a genuine option for mankind in the future. We’ve all learned that sexuality is fluid; soon that may be true of race.  Read the book and give Jess Row the credit he deserves.” Counterpunch

The brilliance of the novel’s central idea is in its combination of Swiftian grotesquery and creepy plausibility…The conceit of the biographer/subject relationship recalls Dostoevsky, in the sense that a book like The Brothers Karamazov presents a kind of moral dialectic, a set of ideas embodied and advanced by its characters.” Slate

Jess Row was handed the rules of engagement for a clever, white, literary author like all the rest; he just doesn’t give a shit…he should be applauded.” Baltimore City Paper

“Row makes readers feel the desperation of the two main characters, and the depths to which they are willing to travel to find a sense of home…readers will sit down with this book and not realize they have read 100 pages until they look out of their windows and notice how much time has passed.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“Row writes impressive, controlled prose, building scenes and characters with a sure hand, and the novel’s plot proceeds rapidly through lies told, secrets revealed and trusts broken. All of that makes for an engrossing…emotionally affecting read.” Haaretz (Israel)

“They say that people change, but in the case of Kelly’s close high school friend whom he hasn’t seen in nearly two decades, it’s the type of change nobody would have seen coming. Row’s tale is one that people will be discussing, and it demonstrates why he is one of the most innovative storytellers out there.” —Jason Diamond, Flovorwire

“Race is a charged subject few white male writers would dare take on, and yet Row does so with a captivating premise, brilliantly executed. Your Face in Mine is, above all, brave and thought-provoking.” Bustle

“Your Face in Mine is…a thought-provoking exploration of identity and the ways it is both formed by the self and projected into the world.” —AskMen

“Your Face in Mine begs the question: are we seeing an internalization of the lessons learned from New Wave science fiction? Are the devices popularized by one literary movement decades ago now part of the toolbox of a number of wise writers, even as some of the other elements are jettisoned? As a reader who enjoys the unconventional, I’m happy to see science fictional ideas show up [in this] unexpected place, on a scale both massive and subtle.” —Tobias Carroll, Vol. 1 Brooklyn

Your Face in Mine might be poised to cause a stir, but not, I hope, for mere controversy. Of equal importance is the arrival of Jess Row as a novelist. His book is written in lush, confident prose, has the pulse of a thriller, the heart of an American epic, and the burning mind of speculative fiction. Your Face in Mine deftly explores some hefty philosophical subjects – identity, self and transformation, to name a few – without sacrificing the pace or prose of the storytelling. Strongly recommended.” —The Shelf Life

“Possibly inspired by the ageless Black Like Me, Jess Row tells the story of Kelly Thorndike, a native Baltimorean who moves back to his hometown and discovers that an old friend has gotten surgery to change his race. At one time a skinny, white, Jewish man, Martin is now African-American, and he’s kept his new identity secret from his friends and family. Martin tells Kelly he wants to come clean, and the two become mired in a fractious, thought-provoking controversy.” The Millions, “Most Anticipated: The Great Second Half Book Preview 2014”

“The essayist and short-story writer’s first novel takes the Soul Man premise to risky extremes, political and artistic—you squirm and think along the way.” New York, “Six Books To Read This Summer”

“If a writer should follow Ernest Hemingway’s well-known dictum to write what he knows, then first-time novelist Jess Row just might be in the wrong business. Case in point? In his highly regarded collection of short stories, The Train to Lo Wu, Row, who taught English for two years in Hong Kong, wrote audaciously and movingly from the point of view of Chinese characters. And, now, in his imaginative and thought-provoking first novel, Your Face in Mine, Row writes about a white man named Martin Lipkin who has “racial reassignment surgery” and becomes a black entrepreneur named Martin Wilkinson. In the process, Martin’s predicament allows Row to explore the perplexing, emotionally and politically charged issues of black and white identity.” —Bookpage

“In this imaginative novel, the author deftly wonders why anyone would choose to usurp his or her past…Your Face in Mine ponders the right to choose one’s identity—and it does so immaculately and in a forthcoming manner. ” —Library Journal (starred review)

Jess Row has outdone himself in a first novel that offers great quantities of food for thought and discussion…Plunging deeper than common notions of the self and racial distinctions, Your Face in Mine presents wholly credible, if not thoroughly trustworthy, characters and complicated circumstances that will inspire serious reflection.” —Donna Chavez, Booklist (starred review)

This furiously smart first novel opens up difficult conversations about race and identity…Your Face in Mine (note the slipperiness of the title: who’s who here?) takes readers on a zesty, twisty, sometimes uncomfortable ride.” —Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

“In A Novelist’s World, You Choose Your Race” (New York Times, August 11th)

Time Out New York: “10 New York Authors To Read Right Now”

Vulture’s “Eight Books You Need To Read This August”

The New Yorker: August Books To Watch Out For

BookPage: Ten Best Books for August

Bustle: August 2014’s Best Books

Flavorwire: 10 Must Read Books for August

On Nobody Ever Gets Lost:


“Nobody Ever Gets Lost is that rare work which can boast both focus and scope. It is a powerful book, raw and shrewd and brave. If the categorical assertion of the title is true, it must be because the world only ever moves in one direction: forward. Visions of purity—ethnic, religious, national, or other—are always reactionary and will always fail. Restoration of the past is impossible, and calling for it merely exposes the weak soul’s fear of the future.”

Corduroy Books

“I read half of this book with my back on the ground and my feet up on the couch and felt fundamentally shifted somehow on finishing the book, and the shift had primarily to do with feeling like I’d been slowed. This gets weird and dicey quickly, because what I’m talking about is the magic way stories can actually make us better people. Do stories owe us that? That’s a debate I don’t think matters here. But for sure what good stories have to do, on some level, is offer a new view to our usual lives, however that happens. And I’d like to here push Nobody Ever Gets Lost as one of those hugely offering books, one of those which throw open doors you don’t even know you need opened.”

Library Journal

“Ranging from provocative to naïve, the characters in this richly nuanced story collection struggle with questions of faith and identity and desperately attempt to locate their place in the post-9/11 world.”


“As a collection, Nobody Ever Gets Lost is, simply put, stunning. Pick it up, enjoy it, spread the word. This is writing to be delighted by and a writer to look for more of.”

Fiction Writers Review

“The details of these stories are indelible, and their revelations often leave the reader slightly breathless.”

Palm Springs Desert Sun

“One of the many things I admire about Row’s work is his willingness to ask questions when there are no sure answers to be found.”

Sycamore Review

“Jess Row has a remarkable ability to evoke empathy in the reader for his characters, to spark vivid connection between ourselves and these raw, whole, complicated lives on the page. To put it simply, his work caused me to think about the world and the people around me in a new way. It may be true that when beginning a Jess Row story you don’t know what to expect – you can’t typecast where it will take place or the characters it will center around – but you can expect that his stories will challenge you, move you, and stay with you long after you have turned the final page.”

Hipster Book Club

“[Nobody Ever Gets Lost] explores universal themes of grief and alienation…touching and tragic.”

NewCity Lit

“In seven psychologically nuanced stories spanning from rural Thailand to the South Bronx, Row tackles the intersection between violence and belief: where does extremism come from? What do abstract convictions look like when you make them concrete?”

The Rumpus

“In these daring stories, Row inhabits seven individuals trying to make sense of a world shaken by September 11th. Spanning Southeast Asia and the United States, Row grapples with questions of identity, religion, and extremism, exploring how we manage (or fail) to co-exist in a post 9/11 world.”

Paper Trails (WNPR, Hartford, CT)

“This is a book of stories about the dangers of telling stories…I was very impressed by the seeming artlessness of Row’s style—that he created the effects he did without reaching for a literary toolbox of fancy metaphors.”

New Jersey Monthly:

“Throughout seven quiet but finely observed tales, characters of different ethnicities, ages and sensibilities rub up against fundamentalism, most of it religious, in the post 9/11 world…Nobody Ever Gets Lost confirms Jess Row’s sterling reputation.”

Granta interview (2/28/2010)

“I think what I’m most drawn to in writing about this subject is the way in which very small, intimate acts of violence (not even necessarily physical violence) often serve as a microcosm or incubator for the massive, cataclysmic violence we see all around us in the world.”

Ploughshares interview (5/7/2009)

“I had a lot of fun writing “Lives of the Saints,” actually. It didn’t feel like work. I love New York, but because I’m not from the city, I don’t take the setting for granted, as some writers do (by necessity). And these two young people are very close to my heart, misguided as they are. They have a great deal of courage; in some ways I wish I had that kind of courage. But not the naïvete that goes along with it. Working on this story was really a refuge from other things I was supposed to be doing; not that it wasn’t hard—writing any story is hard—but I didn’t notice it at the time.”

Up Front (from The New York Times Book Review, 9/9/2007)

“These stories are all about the aftermath of Sept. 11, sometimes in direct and sometimes in oblique ways. They’re bound together by a concern about the connection between intimate betrayals and misunderstandings and the abstractions that lead to violence. I’d like to write comic novels instead, but my work always tends to veer more toward the territory of mourning, in one way or another.”

BookFox interview (5/30/2007)

“From my own perspective as a Buddhist, I think that working as a fiction writer involves building models of karmic processes and watching how they play out.”

On The Train to Lo Wu:

Gotham Writers Workshop interview (2005)

“…it’s very important to me that whatever questions the story raises—about race and affirmative action, about the relationship between men from one society and women from another, about Zen practice—aren’t just left up in the air by the end. Sometimes that happens naturally; sometimes it takes a lot of effort to weave those issues into the story without sounding pedantic or interrupting the drama. Ultimately the encounter between these characters in this particular situation has to take precedence over everything else.”

“In these linked stories about Hong Kong Jess Row has been able to locate the very heart of modern spirituality in this most commercial of cities. Buddhist monks and nuns, proud lovers, failed painters, the haunted daughter of a suicidal mother, a philosopher–all of these people living on the edge have found their way to Hong Kong. The East and the West, sure–but also the sacred and the profane. The writing is surgical in the sense that an ancient Chinese butcher who had attained enlightenment could prepare various cuts without ever touching the meat; his knife passed effortlessly though the natural spaces, just as Row’s pen articulates even the strangest, most elusive feelings without distorting them. This is a debut that feels like a crowning achievement.”

— Edmund White

“In crystalline prose, Row animates intriguing characters and dramatizes subtle yet emblematic conflicts as he traces the vast cultural divides between America and Hong Kong…He neatly and devastatingly contrasts dueling visions of faith, art, love, and freedom.”

— Booklist

“From New York to Hong Kong, Jess Rows stories take us to worlds that are both familiar and strange. It is rare to find the spirit and mind combined so deftly as in these stories. This is a magnificent collection.”

— Charles Baxter

“In sharp, lucid prose, Row molds a landscape of human error and uncertainty, territory well-aligned with the eerie topography of his space-age city.”

— Publisher’s Weekly

“These seven short stories about Hong Kong people by a young American writer are not only subtle, skilful, and above all exceptionally thoughtful: They could well be the finest fiction ever to have appeared in English about the city. It’s no exaggeration to say that The Train to Lo Wu is comparable in many ways with James Joyce’s Dubliners, equally disillusioned stories about another city where things are not always what they seem.”

—Taipei Times

“Jess Row’s The Train to Lo Wu leaves me almost speechless…Many writers have managed to describe Hong Kong, but few have as a deft a touch with the Hong Kong people, real people, with the cadences of Hong Kong English, with the gestures, body language and internal contradictions of the people of this place…Row, who taught at Chinese University from 1997 to 1999, seems to have captured in this short time what it is about Hong Kong that makes this city so frustrating, yet also so hard for so many of us to leave.”

—The Asian Review of Books

“Over and over, these beautifully crafted stories drew me in with their quietly persuasive voices, their meditative detail, and their subtly heart-rending plots. An auspicious debut from a talent set to endure.”

— Peter Ho Davies

“An impressive debut from an admirably protean storyteller…Row’s characters are a mixed bunch, but all are effortlessly convincing, and he handles gritty suspense quite as well as he does the problems of lovers. This Whiting Award-winning author has a very bright future.”

— Kirkus Reviews

“Row’s stories are subtle…and fascinating.”

— Entertainment Weekly

“Jess Row writes with elegance and freshness in prose that sounds a depth of feeling. These stories are poems in themselves, haunting in their clarity and sympathies. They achieve a kind of stillness that seems appropriate for their Chinese setting. I can hardly imagine a more forceful or memorable debut.”

— Jay Parini

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