Sing, Unburied, Sing

Winner, National Book Awards 2017 for Fiction

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward book cover
ISBN 9781501126062
Scribner / Simon & Schuster |
Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward received her MFA from the University of Michigan and is currently an associate professor of creative writing at Tulane University. She is the author of the novels Where the Lines Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, which won the 2011 National Book Award. More about this author >

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Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family. Rich with Ward’s distinctive, musical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an essential contribution to American literature.

Judges Citation

Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing is a narrative so beautifully taut and heartbreakingly eloquent that it stops the breath. Through fully imagined characters both living and dead, this road novel moves beyond the road into the bigger story of what it means to be an American in the rural South both now and decades before this moment. From the elderly, loving Pops, to the clairvoyant toddler, Michaela, the living and the dead confront racism, hope, and the everlasting handprint of history.

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Jesmyn Ward accepts the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction (full speech)

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