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Cover image for Sing, unburied, sing : a novel
Format:
Title:
Sing, unburied, sing : a novel
ISBN:
9781501126062

9781501126079

9781501176661
Edition:
First Scribner hardcover edition.
Publication:
New York, NY : Scribner, 2017.
Physical Description:
289 pages ; 22 cm
Series title(s):
Summary:
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.
Holds:

Available:*

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Ward, J.
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Ward, J.
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Ward, J.
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Ward, J.
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FICTION - WARD
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FICTION - WARD
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Ward
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FIC WARD 2017
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WARD
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FICTION WARD
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FIC WARD
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WARD Jesmyn
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Ward, J.
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On Order

Summary

Summary

*WINNER of the NATIONAL BOOK AWARD for FICTION
*A TIME MAGAZINE BEST NOVEL OF THE YEAR and A NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 OF 2017
*Finalist for the Kirkus Prize
*Finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Medal
*Finalist for the Aspen Words Literary Prize
*Publishers Weekly Top 10 of 2017
*Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award

"The heart of Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing is story--the yearning for a narrative to help us understand ourselves, the pain of the gaps we'll never fill, the truths that are failed by words and must be translated through ritual and song...Ward's writing throbs with life, grief, and love, and this book is the kind that makes you ache to return to it." -- Buzzfeed

In Jesmyn Ward's first novel since her National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones , this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi's past and present, examining the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power--and limitations--of family bonds.

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 new work and an unforgettable family story.


Author Notes

Jesmyn Ward was born in DeLisle, Mississippi in 1977. She became a writer after the death of her brother by a drunk driver. She received a MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan. Her books include the novel Where the Line Bleeds, the memoir Men We Reaped, and the nonfiction work The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race. Salvage the Bones won the National Book Award in Fiction in 2011 and an Alex Award in 2012. Sing, Unburied, Sing won the National Book Award in Fiction in 2017. She taught at University of New Orleans, the University of South Alabama, and Tulane University.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

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 Jojowho's more nurturing to his sister than their mother isin 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 Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Jojo, 13, and his 3-year-old sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, while their mother, Leonie, struggles with drug addiction and her failures as a daughter, mother, and inheritor of a gift (or curse) that connects her to spirits. Leonie insists that Jojo and Kayla accompany her on a two-day journey to the infamous Parchman prison to retrieve their white father. Their harrowing experiences are bound up in unresolved and reverberating racial and family tensions and entanglements: long-buried memories of Pop's time in Parchman, the imminent death of Mam from cancer, and the slow dawning of the children's own spiritual gifts. Ward alternates perspectives to tell the story of a family in rural Mississippi struggling mightily to hold themselves together as they are assailed by ghosts reflecting all the ways humans create cruelty and suffering. 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.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2017 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

THE EVOLUTION OF BEAUTY: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World - and Us, by Richard 0. Prum. (Doubleday, $30.) A mild-mannered ornithologist makes an impassioned case for the importance of Darwin's second theory as his most radical and feminist. COMING TO MY SENSES: The Making of a Counterculture Cook, by Alice Waters with Cristina Mueller and Bob Carrau. (Clarkson Potter, $27.) The founder of Chez Panisse describes her early days, explaining how a visit to France awakened her interest in excellent food and how she came to embrace the use of organic ingredients. FASTING AND FEASTING: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray, by Adam Federman. (Chelsea Green, $25.) Federman's biography is the first of a cult food writer who became famous with the 1986 publication of her influential book "Honey From a Weed." SING, UNBURIED, SING, by Jesmyn Ward. (Scribner, $26.) In her follow-up to the National Book Award-winning novel "Salvage the Bones," Ward tells the story of a Mississippi woman intent on making her fractured family whole again. THE REPUBLIC FOR WHICH IT STANDS: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1898, by Richard White. (Oxford, $35.) This sweeping history of the decades after the Civil War decries the spoliations White sees everywhere among Robber Barons and corrupt politicians. THE INTERNATIONALISTS: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World, by Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro. (Simon & Schuster, $30.) The two authors argue for the historic importance of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, an international agreement usually dismissed by historians as ineffectual and quixotic. In their revisionist view, the pact "reshaped the world map" and "catalyzed the human rights revolution." RESET: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change, by Ellen K. Pao. (Spiegel & Grau, $28.) Combining memoir, self-help, tell-all and manifesto, Pao recalls the disillusionment that led her to sue a venture capital firm for gender discrimination. She lost, but showed the hurdles women still face in many fields. THE MISFORTUNE OF MARION PALM, by Emily Culliton. (Knopf, $25.95.) In Culliton's delightful and sneakily feminist debut novel, a Brooklyn mother is on the lam after embezzling thousands of dollars from her daughters' private school. BONES: Brothers, Horses, Cartels, and the Borderland Dream, by Joe Tone. (One World, $28.) A reporter brilliantly recounts the tale of a Texas bricklayer who laundered drug money for his brother, a cartel boss in Mexico, via the horse-racing industry. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web: nytimes.com/books


Library Journal Review

In her second National Book Award (NBA)--winning title, Ward returns to Bois Sauvage, MS, where her first NBA winner, Salvage the Bones, played out. Bones' Skeetah and Eschelle appear momentarily here. Jojo, 13, and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their black grandparents. Their drug-addicted mother Leonie is mostly absent, until she returns announcing a road trip to collect their white father from prison. The epic journey lays bare racial, societal, and familial divides, revealing a tragic landscape still struggling with the horrific legacy of enslavement and privilege. A trio of newbie narrators make audacious debuts; each is superb. Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Jojo is old before his time as Kayla's protector. -Rutina Wesley as Leonie achingly inhabits the limbo between desperate and determined. Chris Chalk as Richie-who slips into the car on the return ride-is caught between brash and lost. With such talent, the production should have been pitch-perfect, but the jarring disconnect among narrators when voicing the same characters in their separate chapters-Harrison's Jojo, for example, is impossibly patient; Wesley's Jojo sounds unnecessarily surly-mars a potentially spectacular performance. VERDICT Directing flaws aside, libraries will want to satisfy eager literature lovers with all available formats. ["Lyrical yet tough, Ward's distilled language effectively captures the hard lives, fraught relationships, and spiritual depth of her characters": LJ 5/15/2017 starred review of the Scribner hc.]-Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.