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Jessi Jezewska Stevens Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Exhibition of Persephone Q (2020) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Jessi Jezewska Stevens
Author Jessi Jezewska Stevens has an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and a BA in mathematics from Middlebury College. Jessi lives in New York, where she teaches fiction.

Jessi’s work has appeared in such places as: The Paris Review, Tin House, 4 Columns, Guernica, Harper’s Blog, The Los Angeles Review of Books, BOMB, and elsewhere.

For “The Exhibition of Persephone Q”, Jessi believed it would be more interesting to have Percy would end up becoming more offended by the mere idea that people wouldn’t believe her. In not believing her, it would be, in a way, rejecting a kind of narrative of self that she presents.

When she began writing the novel, the 2016 election cycle had just started. Ideas of paranoia surrounded national identity were on her mind at the time. Even though she didn’t intend on writing a historical novel, it seemed to her that a period of paranoia and uncertainity about what this nation is, and how people respond to this uncertainity, was definitely bookended by 9/11 as well as the election cycle of 2016. This is why she decided to give the novel the post-9/11 backdrop with the intent of setting up a very contemporary sense of uncertainity about identity.

In the novel, she waits until very late in the novel to divulge information about Percy’s origin story. And when she does, it is a kind of second Exhibition Persephone Q. She is a passive character in the narrative with the literal exhibition taking places, where Percy believes herself to be the woman in the pictures. It got Jessi thinking about having another ‘exhibition’ that was told in Percy’s voice.

Jessi thought it was possible that Percy was attempting to make meaning by telling that story. Potentially that she reaches a breaking point where it starts to become impossible for her to stay in denial about the mom she could become the person she has been, and the people she loves now.

Jessi was deeply interested in the idea of self-recognition. The exhibition arrives precisely at a time when she was avoiding certain questions. She recently got married and will soon become a mom. When she starts to not recognize herself, it deeply disturbs her on a personal level, since she is not self-aware about who she is, who she’s been, or what she wants.

She was always interested in writing a mystery novel, but she doesn’t believe she was all that interested in solving a mystery novel. At the same time, she does realize that for a lot of readers it would be frustrating to have the solution coming up but just not happen. This is really for the one person that can appreciate a mystery not being solved the way it started out being solved.

She has Percy’s back story come in to interrupt the solving of the mystery as a bit of a structural joke, as she thought it would be amusing to have a character want five minutes to tell their story and just talk for awhile. Percy gives her own separate riff on the exhibition at the novel’s core while telling her story. Jessi sees plot as patterning as well as disrupting patterns. It makes her wonder, just how many times can you restart a book?

Before she wrote the novel, she was mostly penning short stories. While writing those stories, she was attracted to a type of frenetic energy, and she found first person perspective to be her way of exploring that. She also believes that short stories should be a bit like drugs.

After she finished writing the novel, she began writing in third person, in fiction anyway. At the time she was writing about Percy, she was very attracted to her voice and the things Jessi was reading.

She really enjoys writing third person and feels it opens up some more interesting territory about the kinds of suspension of disbelief you have to have for a novel now. Jessi feels that with all the fiction we’re saturated in at all times, with film, tv, and social media that it becomes hard to deal with an omniscient third on the page. It is almost like the omniscience of a nineteenth century novel.

Jessi’s debut novel, called “The Exhibition of Persephone Q”, was released in the year 2020. It was published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. She writes criticism and fiction.

“The Exhibition of Persephone Q” is the first stand alone novel and was released in the year 2020. Percy is pregnant. However, she has not told a soul. She should probably tell her husband, and she definitely means to, however one night she wakes up and finds that she no longer recognizes the man. Instead of sleeping, Percy spends her nights walking through her neighborhood, while she frets over her marriage, the sinister ways the city has been changing, and her impending motherhood.

With all this alienation, from her home, her husband, and her own quickly changing body, a package shows up. Inside is an exhibition catalog for a photography show. The pictures are made up of a series of digially manipulated images of one woman lying on some bed in a red room. It takes Percy a moment for her to even notice that the woman is her, however, she is the only one to see any resemblance.

Percy has to now come to grips with this fundamental question of identity in the digital age. To what extent do we even own our image, and to what extent is this image shaped by the eyes of other people?

Fans found Percy to be a very relatable and likeable character in this. Readers found this cleverly insane and lovely novel to be a captivating portrait of urban solitude, by turns poetic, strange, and poignant. Jessi tells a timeless tale of the battle to try to stop the present from becoming the past with a voice that is wisely bizarre and riveting. Jessi has got a special gift with language and prose. It also captures the floating unease and the paranoia in the time right after 9/11 happened.

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