Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward



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.

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Our Bookseller says…

With Sing, Unburied, Sing, author Jesmyn Ward won her second National Book Award for Fiction, making her both the only woman and the only African-American person to accomplish the feat twice. The novel follows Leonie–a drug-abusing mother still haunted by the murder of her brother Given–on a road trip with her two children to bring their white father home from the infamous Parchman Farm Penitentiary.

Sing, Unburied, Sing is a masterpiece. One of the best novels I have ever read, and I don’t think a day has gone by since when I didn’t think about it. It’s haunting, soul-crushing, but hopeful and beautiful despite it all. The relationship between Jojo and his sister Kayla is heartwarming, and I spent most of the novel desperately hoping they would be spared from the cycle of grief and despair inflicted on their family. Everyone should read this book.


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

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward