Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing Study Guide

Sing, Unburied, Sing is a 2017 novel by Jesmyn Ward. The story follows a biracial family living in the fictional town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi. There are three narrators that relate the story's events in alternating chapters. The narrators are Jojo, a thirteen-year-old who lives with his grandparents; Leonie, Jojo's mother; and Richie, a ghost from Jojo's grandfather's past. Throughout Sing, Unburied, Sing, Ward explores themes of intergenerational trauma, racism, addiction, and circular time.

The novel can be interpreted as a coming-of-age story. As Jojo grows into manhood, his grandfather urges him to understand his family's painful history and their generational connections to the Mississippi State Penitentiary. In an interview with the NPR show Fresh Air, Ward explained that the story was modeled after her own experiences growing up in a small town on Mississippi's gulf coast. She tells Fresh Air host Terry Gross, "I feel like in every book that I commit to telling the truth about the place that I live in, and also about the kind of people who live in my community." Ward was also interested in uncovering the intimacies of intra-familial violence and its connection to racism in the South.

Following its publication, Sing, Unburied, Sing was met with critical acclaim. The novel won the 2017 National Book Award for fiction, and it was named one of the ten best books of the year by The New York Times. The novel also won Ainsfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction in 2018 and the Mark Twain American Voice In Literature Award in 2019. Sing, Unburied, Sing was the second of Ward's novels to win the National Book Award. She is the first woman and the first person of color to receive this honor twice.