Nonfiction

The Eighth Moon

A Memoir of Belonging and Rebellion
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“Beautifully written, The Eighth Moon uses a very light touch to probe the most essential, unresolvable questions of belief, kinship, fidelity, history, identity”—CHRIS KRAUS
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“1845. The sky is blue, yet all is brown. I picture the scene from overhead: a silvered steel of violence, blood, beer, whiskey, and mutton. High, skidding clouds skip with excitement, eager to see what unfolds below. They cheer on the scene where men in dresses march.”

A rebellion, guns, and murder. When Jennifer Kabat moves to the Catskills in 2005, she has no idea it was the site of the Anti-Rent War, an early episode of American rural populism. Prompted to leave London following a mysterious illness that seems to be caused by life in the city itself, she finds in these ancient mountains—at once the northernmost part of Appalachia and a longtime refuge for New Yorkers—a place “where the land itself holds time.”

She forges friendships with her new neighbors and explores the countryside on logging roads and rutted lanes, finding meadows dotted with milkweed in bloom, saffron salamanders, a blood moon rising over Munsee, Oneida, and Mohawk land. As the Great Recession sets in and a housing crisis looms, she supports herself with freelance work and adjunct teaching, slowly learning of the 1840s uprising, when poor tenant farmers fought to redistribute their landlords’ vast estates. In the farmers’ socialist dreams, she discovers connections to her parents’ collectivist values, as well as to our current moment. Threaded with historical documents, the natural world, and the work of writers like Adrienne Rich and Elizabeth Hardwick, Kabat weaves a capacious memoir, where the past comes alive in the present.

Rich with unexpected correspondences and discoveries, this visionary and deeply compassionate debut gives us a new way of seeing and being in place—one in which everything is intertwined and all at once.

Keywords
environmental, ecological, history, memoir, Anti-Rent War, Upstate New York, rural America, United States, feudal kingdom, feudalism, inequality, rebellion, grief, loss, death, time, politics, political climate
ISBN
9781639550685
Publish Date
Pages
304
Dimensions
8.5 × 5.5 × 1 in
Weight
12 oz
Author

Jennifer Kabat

Jennifer Kabat is the author of The Eighth Moon. Her essays have been published in BOMB, Granta, McSweeney’s, and Best American Essays.

 

Praise and Prizes

  • “Beautifully written, The Eighth Moon uses a very light touch to probe the most essential, unresolvable questions of belief, kinship, fidelity, history, identity. It’s one of the most remarkable, original books I’ve read in a long time.”

    Chris Kraus
    author of Summer of Hate
  • The Eighth Moon is infused with attention for the lands and art and bodies of the world. Reading it gave me moral stamina. Jennifer Kabat is a capacious and humane writer, and this book is required reading for anyone who wishes to live a principled life in a modern world.”

    Emmanuel Iduma
    author of I Am Still with You
  • “A mesmerizing debut that dares us to reimagine our relationship to time, place, and history. In this gripping book-length essay, chronologies converge when Jennifer Kabat finds herself in a rural county of the ancient Catskill Mountains ‘where the land itself holds time’: a nineteen century socialist uprising, a twentieth century movement of rural cooperatives, and a twenty-first century reckoning with the rising tide of facism, each offering unexpected echoes with one another’s emergencies. In prose that glides with poetic precision, Kabat’s personal narrative is webbed into this vortex as she situates herself in the broader story of Delaware County, cutting between the modernist hopes of her upbringing, the deathbeds of both her parents, and the shock of grief that shatters all previous understandings of time. Political and botanical textures emerge and remix as we roam through the last two centuries’ populist seasons. The Eighth Moon moves with time-skipping logic, ‘where the yet is always now,’ and where life is not a march of progress, but rather a circadian unfurling, dying back, going underground, and coming up again, slightly different. Kabat is both a stylist and a temporal magician. She cultivates a perspective that is as ethical as it is aesthetic because it provides a way of understanding ourselves not as main characters, but as dynamic collaborators with all that has happened, is happening, and will happen.”

    Adrian Shirk
    author of Heaven Is a Place on Earth
  • “Kabat is a rural flaneur, probing for exit from capitalist endgame in this psychogeographical memoir of the Catskills. As political time collapses the events of her study into the present day, mysterious doors open into the possibility of an encounter across history with every risk attached, including that of renewal of our most elusive faith in one another. This is a sublime book.”

    Jonathan Lethem
    author of Brooklyn Crime Novel
  • “Kabat traces her journey through the archives; outlines her experience making a home in Margaretville as she befriends locals; and issues abundant literary reflections on such writers as Elizabeth Hardwick and Adrienne Rich. […] an introspective investigation of the interplay between writing, history, and political action.”

    Publishers Weekly