When Obama recommends a book from his reading list, you know you’re onto something pretty special. One of the former president’s top recommendations of 2017 and Women’s Prize nominee, Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward is an intimate portrait of a family marred by poverty and their ties to the past.
Mississippi and magical realism collide as Jojo joins his mother and little sister on a slow and painful road trip across the state. On the one hand, the novel is concerned with the raw vulnerability that shadows America’s impoverished working class, each character as complex as the last, their flaws magnified by the claustrophobic setting of the car and family home. Drug abuse, domestic abuse and poverty plague each page.
However, for a master storyteller like Ward, this desperate family saga is both intensely personal and deeply political. Sing, Unburied, Sing resurrects the dark history of the south, evoking the spiritualism of slave culture to uncover the lasting effects of racial injustice in America. Ward uses the supernatural to connect past and present, offering an uncomfortable perspective on a generation abandoned - and how America could face making the same mistake again.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. Bloomsbury, 2018.