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Jesmyn Ward, essayist, memoirist, and National Book Award winner Reading and book signing

Date: Time: 7:00 pm–8:30 pm
Sheldon Museum of Art Room: Ethel S. Abbott Auditorium
Additional Info: SHEL
Contact: Timothy Schaffert, tschaffert2@unl.edu
MacArthur Genius and two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward has been hailed as the standout writer of her generation, proving her “fearless and toughly lyrical” voice in novels, memoir, and nonfiction. Betsy Burton of the American Booksellers Association has called her “the new Toni Morrison.” In 2017, she became the first woman and the first person of color to win two National Book Awards for Fiction—joining the ranks of William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, John Cheever, Philip Roth, and John Updike.

Ward’s stories are largely set on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, where she grew up and still lives. When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, Ward was forced to evacuate her rapidly flooding home. Her writing is deeply informed by the trauma of Katrina, not to mention its unimaginable social and economic repercussions. Her novel Salvage the Bones, winner of the 2011 National Book Award, is a troubling but ultimately empowering tale of familial bonds set amid the chaos of the hurricane. Likewise, Ward’s debut novel, Where the Line Bleeds, depicts what Publishers Weekly calls “a world full of despair but not devoid of hope” in the aftermath of natural disaster.

A singular Southern odyssey that strikes at the heart of life in the rural South, Sing,Unburied, Sing, earned Ward a second National Book Award in 2017. Sing, Unburied, Sing is a road novel through Mississippi’s past and present that explores the bonds of a family tested by racism and poverty. Margaret Atwood called it a “wrenching new novel…[that] digs deep into the not-buried heart of the American nightmare.

Ward’s memoir, Men We Reaped, delves into the five years of Ward’s life in which she lost five young men—to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that follows poor people and people of color. Ward is the also the editor of the critically acclaimed anthology The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, which NPR named one of the Best Books of 2016.

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