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Sing, Unburied, Sing
Cover of Sing, Unburied, Sing
Sing, Unburied, Sing
A Novel
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WINNER of the NATIONAL BOOK AWARD and A NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR A finalist for the Kirkus Prize, Andrew Carnegie Medal, Aspen Words Literary Prize, and a New York Times bestseller,...
WINNER of the NATIONAL BOOK AWARD and A NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR A finalist for the Kirkus Prize, Andrew Carnegie Medal, Aspen Words Literary Prize, and a New York Times bestseller,...
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  • WINNER of the NATIONAL BOOK AWARD and A NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR

    A finalist for the Kirkus Prize, Andrew Carnegie Medal, Aspen Words Literary Prize, 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).
 

Awards-

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.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 3, 2017
    Ward (Salvage the Bones) tells the story of three generations of a struggling Mississippi family in this astonishing novel. “We don’t walk no straight lines. It’s all happening at once. All of it. We all here at once.” This is the explanation 13-year-old Jojo is provided by his grandmother, the family matriarch, on her deathbed. “I’ll be on the other side of the door,” she reassures him, “With everybody else that’s gone before.” Jojo and his little sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, while Leonie, their mother, drifts in and out of their lives, causing chaos. Snorting coke one night, Leonie explains, “A clean burning shot through my bones, and then I forgot. The shoes I didn’t buy, the melted cake...” Leonie wants to be a better mother, and when Jojo’s and Kayla’s father is released from prison, Leonie takes the kids with her, hoping for a loving reunion, but what she gets instead is a harrowing drive across a muggy landscape haunted by hatred. Throughout the novel, though, are beautifully crafted moments of tenderness. When the dead, including Leonie’s murdered brother, make their appearances and their demands, no one in the family’s surprised. But their stories are deeply affecting, in no small part because of Ward’s brilliant writing and compassionate eye.

  • Library Journal

    April 1, 2017

    Finally, Ward's next novel after the stupendous, National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones. It stars Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla; their sometimes-there, sometimes-not mother, Leonie, a drug addict who has visions of her dead brother; and their grandparents Mam, who's dying of cancer, and Pop, who struggles to hold the family together. When Leonie learns that the white father of her children will be released from prison, she loads them and a friend into her car and drives to the state penitentiary. With a ten-city tour.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from August 1, 2017
    The terrible beauty of life along the nation's lower margins is summoned in this bold, bright, and sharp-eyed road novel.In present-day Mississippi, citizens of all colors struggle much as their ancestors did against the persistence of poverty, the wages of sin, and the legacy of violence. Thirteen-year-old Jojo is a sensitive African-American boy living with his grandparents and his toddler sister, Kayla, somewhere along the Gulf Coast. Their mother, Leonie, is addicted to drugs and haunted by visions of her late brother, Given, a local football hero shot to death years before by a white youth offended at being bested in some supposedly friendly competition. Somehow, Leonie ends up marrying Michael, the shooter's cousin, who worked as a welder on the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The novel's main story involves a road trip northward to the Mississippi State Penitentiary, where Michael's about to be released from prison. Leonie, very much a hot mess, insists on taking both children along to pick up their father even though it's clear from the start that Jojo--who's more nurturing to his sister than their mother is--in no way wants to make the journey, especially with his grandmother dying from cancer. Along the way, Jojo finds he's the only one who sees and speaks to another spirit: Richie, an ill-fated friend of his grandfather's who decades before was imprisoned at a brutal work camp when he was slightly younger than Jojo. Ward, a National Book Award winner for Salvage the Bones, (2011), has intimate knowledge of the Gulf Coast and its cultural complexities and recounts this jolting odyssey through the first-person voices of Jojo, Leonie, and occasionally Richie. They each evoke the swampy contours of the scenery but also the sweat, stickiness, and battered nerves that go along with a road trip. It's a risky conceit, and Ward has to work to avoid making her narrators sound too much like poets. But any qualms are overpowered by the book's intensely evocative imagery, musical rhetoric, and bountiful sympathy toward even the most exasperating of its characters. Remorse stalks the grown-ups like a search party, but grace in whatever form seems ready to salve their wounds, even the ones that don't easily show. As with the best and most meaningful American fiction these days, old truths are recast here in new realities rife with both peril and promise.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 30, 2017
    A trio of performers demonstrate their considerable vocal talents in the audio edition of the latest from National Book Award–winner Ward (for Salvage the Bones). The novel’s multithreaded structure may take a bit of time for listeners to grasp, particularly given that one of the three narrators is the ghost of Richie, a teen prisoner who was murdered many decades earlier. The other two protagonists—a 13-year-old boy named Jojo and his drug-addicted mother, Leonie—interact with both the living and the dead in their daily lives in a narrative that links past racial violence with a current family crisis. The elements eventually meld together seamlessly. Jojo’s lingering sense of innocence and earnestness on the cusp of manhood shines through in the gentle cadence of Harrison’s voice. Actor Wesley brings both edge and vulnerability to her smoky-voiced portrayal of Leonie. The listening experience requires attention to detail, but the solid performances are a great match for the material. A Scribner hardcover.

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