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Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward []



In a Faulkner-esque, southern gothic narrative, Jesmyn Ward crafts a story of a poor, Black, Mississippi family enduring drug addiction, the horrors of prison, grief and loss, and everyday struggles. The shifting perspectives primarily follow the lives of Jojo, the thirteen-year-old protagonist losing innocence, and his grieving addict mother, Leonie, featuring limited perspectives from his toddler sister, white, incarcerated father, and aging grandparents. We are dropped into the narrative as the family receives news that Jojo’s father, Michael, is to be released from the Mississippi State Penitentiary and the family begins their journey to bring him home; a journey that ostensibly is not linear or without turmoil. Ward evokes themes of Black spirituality and the supernatural–from phantom appearances to natural remedies. As Leonie struggles with motherhood, leaving Jojo to assume a parental role for his younger sister, the family, both together and individually recognize their realities. Throughout their experiences, Ward evinces just how pervasive intergenerational trauma is and how legacies of slavery and history can never truly be relegated to the past.

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