Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing is a critically acclaimed novel written by Jesmyn Ward. It is a powerful and haunting story that explores themes of race, family, and the ghosts of the past through the lives of its compelling characters.

Brief Summary

The novel tells the story of a family living in rural Mississippi. The protagonist, Jojo, is a thirteen-year-old African-American boy who lives with his grandparents, Mam and Pop, and his toddler sister, Kayla. Jojo’s mother, Leonie, struggles with drug addiction and is often absent from their lives.

One summer, Leonie decides to take Jojo and Kayla on a road trip to pick up their father, Michael, from the notorious Parchman prison. On their journey, they encounter various challenges and face their own internal struggles. The novel weaves between past and present, exploring the fraught history and complicated dynamics that have shaped their lives.

Awards and Accolades

Sing, Unburied, Sing has received widespread critical acclaim and has been recognized with several prestigious literary awards. It won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2017, cementing Jesmyn Ward’s reputation as a talented and important voice in contemporary literature.

In addition to the National Book Award, the novel was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize for Fiction and was included on numerous “Best of” lists, including The New York Times Book Review’s “10 Best Books of 2017.”

Praise and Criticisms

Sing, Unburied, Sing has been praised for its lyrical prose, vivid storytelling, and its raw portrayal of the complexities of race and family. Critics have commended Ward’s ability to create fully realized characters who grapple with the weight of their past and struggle to find their place in the world.

The novel has been hailed as a powerful exploration of the African-American experience and has been praised for its unflinching portrayal of the harsh realities faced by marginalized communities. Many readers have found the book both emotionally moving and thought-provoking.

However, some critics have mentioned that the nonlinear narrative and the inclusion of supernatural elements may not appeal to all readers. The darkness and bleakness of certain scenes have also been a point of contention for some.

Notable Characters

Sing, Unburied, Sing features a cast of compelling characters who drive the narrative forward. Some of the notable characters include:


The thirteen-year-old protagonist who acts as a primary caregiver to his sister and grapples with his identity in a racially divided society.


Jojo and Kayla’s mother, who struggles with drug addiction and attempts to find redemption and connection with her family.


Jojo’s fierce and resilient grandmother who acts as a stable presence in his life and imparts wisdom and love.


Jojo’s grandfather, a quiet but strong figure who provides stability and guidance to the family.


Jojo’s toddler sister, who is often caught in the crossfire of the family’s struggles.


Please note that this is just a brief overview of the novel Sing, Unburied, Sing. It is a rich and complex work that delves deep into the lives and experiences of its characters. To fully appreciate the depth and beauty of this novel, it is recommended to read it in its entirety.

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