Book of the Week: ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Jesmyn Ward

2017, 285 pages


JoJo is the biracial son of young and irresponsible Leonie and incarcerated Michael. He takes care of his younger sister Kayla, helps maintain the family home with his grandfather Pop, and looks over his dying grandmother Mam. JoJo calls his mother by her first name and seems to carry with him a sadness for the woman that used to be and who seems to no longer care for neither him nor Kayla. During their long car ride to the Parchman Farm – the Mississippi State Penitentiary – to retrieve a newly released Michael, it becomes clear that Leonie shares this sadness with JoJo, but the pull of both drug addiction and her stronger love for Michael overshadow her desire to be a better mother.

Throughout the drive to and from Parchman, which is the backdrop to the majority of the story, Ward shares the perspectives of JoJo, Leonie and Richie – the ghost of a boy Pop took under his wing during his own time at Parchman Farm.

To say that the lyrical and dark prose of Jesmyn Ward is beautifully written is an understatement. The book not only tells the intricate story of JoJo and his family, but also of the complexities that come with biracial relationships in the contemporary Deep South along with the impact of paternal incarceration. Winner of the 2017 National Book Award for fiction – this is a must-read.

Nicole Schulze

Concord Public Library

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Author: Insider Staff

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