Staff recommendations, guest essays, and curated reading lists.
This novel will hook you in and pull you along through a spellbinding, heartbreaking journey into modern-day, impoverished Mississippi. The story follows Jojo, a young multiracial boy growing up primarily with his grandparents due to his mother's addiction problems and his father's jail sentence. It explores the bonds of family, the weight of history, and includes a touch of magical realism that will hang heavy on your heart after finishing. Recommended By Tehya R., Powells.com
Set in the rural Mississippi Gulf, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a ghost story, haunted by the lingering effects of generational poverty, the folk magic of the South, and the specters of America’s violent past, present, and future. Lush, layered, and richly imagined, Ward’s latest novel is a heartbreaking wonder. Recommended By Rhianna W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Winner of the National Book Award and a New York Times Top 10 Best Book of the Year
A finalist for the Kirkus Prize and Andrew Carnegie Medal, and a New York Times bestseller, this majestic, stirring, and widely praised novel from two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward, the story of a family on a journey through rural Mississippi, is a "tour de force" (O, the Oprah Magazine) and a timeless work of fiction that is destined to become a classic.
Jesmyn Ward's historic second National Book Award-winner is "perfectly poised for the moment" (The New York Times), an intimate portrait of three generations of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. "Ward's writing throbs with life, grief, and love...this book is the kind that makes you ache to return to it" (Buzzfeed).
Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn't lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won't acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager.
His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister's lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is Black and her children's father is White. She wants to be a better mother but can't put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she's high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances.
When the children's father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.
Rich with Ward's distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic and unforgettable family story and "an odyssey through rural Mississippi's past and present" (The Philadelphia Inquirer).
yet tough, Ward's distilled language effectively captures the hard
lives, fraught relationships, and spiritual depth of her characters."
Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Ward tells the story of
three generations of a struggling Mississippi family in this astonishing
novel....Their stories are deeply affecting, in no small part because
of Ward's brilliant writing and compassionate eye."
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"In her first novel since the National Book Award-winning
Salvage the Bones (2011), Ward renders richly drawn characters, a
strong sense of place, and a distinctive style that is at once
down-to-earth and magical."
"Ward, whose Salvage the Bones won a National Book Award, has emerged as one of the most searing and singularly gifted writers working today. Grade: A." Entertainment Weekly
About the Author
Jesmyn Ward received her MFA from the University of Michigan and has received the MacArthur Genius Grant, a Stegner Fellowship, a John and Renee Grisham Writers Residency, and the Strauss Living Prize. She is the winner of two National Book Awards for Fiction for Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017) and Salvage the Bones (2011). She is also the author of the novel Where the Line Bleeds and the memoir Men We Reaped, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize and the Media for a Just Society Award. She is currently an associate professor of creative writing at Tulane University and lives in Mississippi.