New York Magazine

The Rise and Return of Jesmyn Ward

From small-town Mississippi to an out-of-the-blue National Book Award—then back to Mississippi to write her third novel.

JESMYN WARD IS, by all accounts, a faithful friend and a loving mother. The award-winning novelist is so devoted to family that she still lives in DeLisle, Mississippi, the largely impoverished town where she and her relatives weathered Katrina by huddling in a pickup truck after a white neighbor denied them shelter. But her love for her characters—from the hurricane survivors in her novel Salvage the Bones to the dead friends in her memoir, Men We Reaped—is brutal. Or maybe, as Ward’s friend and fellow writer Sarah Frisch puts it, “her love is as kind as it could be, but it’s a tough world.”

Sing, Unburied, Sing, Ward’s third and latest novel and her first since Salvage the Bones won a National Book Award in 2011, is about the

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