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2019 Longlist

Sing, Unburied, Sing

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ABOUT
THE BOOK

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.

 

 

ABOUT
THE AUTHOR Jesmyn
Ward

Jesmyn Ward grew up in DeLisle, Mississippi. She received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won five of the school’s esteemed Hopwood awards for essays, drama, and fiction. Ward was the recipient of a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford and is currently the John and Renée Grisham Visiting Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi. Her debut novel, Where the Line Bleeds, was an Essence Magazine Book Club selection, a Black Caucus of the ALA Honor Award recipient, and a finalist for both the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.

Jesmyn Ward grew up in DeLisle, Mississippi. She received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won five of the school’s esteemed Hopwood awards for essays, drama, and fiction. Ward was the recipient of a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford and is currently the John and Renée Grisham Visiting Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi. Her debut novel, Where the Line Bleeds, was an Essence Magazine Book Club selection, a Black Caucus of the ALA Honor Award recipient, and a finalist for both the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.

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NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS

Jojo is trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict but cannot put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. When the children’s father is released from prison, she packs the kids and travels to the State Penitentiary. There, a boy who carries all the history of the South, has something to teach Jojo about fathers, sons, legacies, violence and love. An epic tale of hope and struggle, the novel examines the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power and limitations of family bonds.

Sing, Unburied, Sing is a compelling story of how unbearably painful and exquisitely beautiful family ties can be. A profound road novel dropped in the Deep South and confronting contemporary issues of race, poverty, the justice system and family tragedy. Prison, drugs, racism and love bind a Mississippi family.

The lives of ordinary people are transformed by Ward’s language. This book shows us the deep inner lives of those our culture has marginalized.

This stunningly good book examines the inherited trauma of black people in the American South, through the eyes of a boy on the cusp of manhood, a mother afflicted by drug addiction, and a ghost. Ward’s poetic cadence draws the reader into this family road trip cum ghost story, as 13-year-old Jojo and his mother Leonie navigate the legacies of racism and poverty as they seep from the past into the present.

A deeply affecting read. A mother takes her two children on a harrowing family road trip in which they are forced to face dormant memories and the ghosts who haunt them.

Sing, Unburied, Sing is a captivating story of a broken family that is both incredibly beautiful and very sad.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Date published
05/09/2017
Author
Publisher
Scribner

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