Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing

A Novel

eBook - 2017
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*Finalist for the Kirkus Prize
*Finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Medal
*Publishers Weekly Top 10 of 2017

"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.
Publisher: [Place of publication not identified] : Simon & Schuster, 2017.
ISBN: 9781501126093
Branch Call Number: eBook overdrive
Characteristics: 1 online resource


From Library Staff

Nominee, Fiction

LPL_KateG Sep 14, 2017

Jesmyn Ward is the queen of capturing smooth, Southern voices and weaving them into luscious and emotional tales.

From the critics

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Apr 12, 2019

The boy helps his granddad kill a goat, very bloody and graphic. Then the grandad carries the liver to the house to cook for his wife. Oh my goodness, almost made me gag. There are better books to read.

WPLBookClub Feb 28, 2019

The Whistler Public Library & Armchair Books Community Book Club discussed Sing, Unburied, Sing as our Black History Month pick. We had a great chat about this book - opinions varied widely, but everyone had thoughts and questions to share, regardless of whether they "enjoyed" the story.

Some highlights of our discussion (no spoilers!):
- The supernatural elements of the story - the passing along of certain powers/abilities from generation to generation; the role played by ghosts, and whether or not they improved or detracted from the story
- Leonie's parenting skills, or lack thereof - what circumstances in her life lead her to be so negligent?
- Misty's role as Leonie's white friend, and the ways her privilege makes life easier for her

Dec 29, 2018

On Barack Obama's Top Books of 2017

Dec 24, 2018

Outstanding. A bit mysterious.

Nov 12, 2018

This book shook me from start to finish. Thankful for writers like Jesmyn Ward giving a voice to the voiceless.

Nov 04, 2018

Definitely one of the most moving, powerful books I've read this year. Ward is able to relate the lives, interactions, struggles of past and present of this Mississippi family in a woven fashion that illuminates their complexities bit by bit. Injustice, hate, prejudice, love, spirit, life and death all shape these characters and how they deal with each other. These factors enable some to grow and others not. Jojo, Kayla, Pop and Richie will stay in my thoughts for some time to come.

Oct 06, 2018

I was not too crazy over the way the book was written, the story line was good, the delivery not perfect. Strange title for the story.

AnnabelleLee27 Sep 25, 2018

A novel about a present day African-American family in rural Mississippi where the past is always an important influencing presence - in this case portrayed as ghosts who visit, warn, plead with, and follow the living. The characters are complex and complicated and it is an emotional read which is in turn disturbing and beautiful, promising and bleak, harsh and loving.

Jun 12, 2018

Echoes of Beloved.

lydia1879 May 24, 2018

Out of the rich, black earth, rises a Modern Southern Gothic story that took me two days to read.

“This is the kind of world that makes fools of the living and wants of them once they dead, and devils them throughout.”

I picked this up at the end of Dewey’s 24-hour readathon, I was feeling tired and coming down with a viral thing that just won’t go away. And I made more tea, buckled down and forced myself to stay awake and read it because it was so good.

It’s told from multiple perspectives, Jojo, a 13-year-old boy, his mother, who struggles with substance abuse and often sees ghosts, and then others.

Ward gives Leonie, Jojo’s mother, her own voice. It gives such an authenticity to the experience of a drug addict. The true self-centredness, the matter-of-fact way she ignores so many other important aspects in her life. We can see how that cripples her — and she’s totally aware of it — but refuses to look it in the eyes.

Her dialogue is so good because it’s so simple. She hangs truths in the air and doesn’t touch them after that.

“You was the only daddy I ever knew. I need to know why you left me.”

I did feel a slight change in tone once the ghost characters became more prominent but I like magical realism a lot, so it didn’t bother me at all. I didn’t like the change in tone so much, but it did grow on me as time went on, so it was just a matter of adjusting to the flow of the story.

What I loved most about this book, and what I love most about a lot of African American literature / black lit / soul lit is that it ties the past, the present and the future together so seamlessly and lets all of the colours run. Black, red, blue, all back into the earth. It’s interesting, because I’m currently reading Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington, who talks of this same rich soil, and how the formerly enslaved South only knew how to grow cotton there. He starts a school, starts a garden, (among many other things!), and talks about how fertile the earth is, just like the minds of his students, of their opportunities.

So it was interesting to hear Ward talk about it too, but in a different way.

The motif of touch in this novel is fascinating, reoccurring and totally beautiful, especially when you consider how the ghosts that visit certain characters cannot touch them.

Sing Unburied Sing is what happens when Ward decides to tell you a story, knowing the end will hurt, knowing perhaps you won’t be ready for it, but knowing you’ll need to hear it anyway, because it will heal the person the story was written for.

Redemption can be an ugly thing. While we heal, we still feel pain.

We can’t pick our pasts. And sometimes, we can’t even pick our legacies.

But let’s hope there’s love in between.

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Mar 17, 2018

ranvapa thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


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Dec 27, 2018

He wasn't nothing but a boy, Jojo. They kill animals better than that.


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