Sing, Unburied, Sing was written by Jesmyn Ward. It was the winner of the National Book Award in 2017. I heard of it from my favourite bookstore Shakespeare and Company, and as I was studying African-American literature for one of my classes last semester, I decided to pick it up. Not one second did I regret this decision. Although it took me quite some time to finish this book, it was definitely worth the read.
Title: Sing, Unburied, Sing
Author: Jesmyn Ward
Publication year: 2017
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
Jojo is thirteen. He lives with his grandparents and his drug addict mother Leonie. When he is not at school, he spends most of his time caring for his little sister Kayla. When his father Michael is set to be released from prison, his mother decides to take both of them on a trip to take him home, along with one of her friends. The trip also revives old memories about her brother Given’s death, as well as the time her father spend at Parchman, the same prison Michael was at.
Sing, Unburied, Sing was a troubling and beautiful story. It is unique and well written. Ths plot is slow paced, and mainly follows the perspectives of Jojo and Leonie, alternating from one chapter to another, which shows the struggles that both of them are facing, both in their life in general – Leonie lost her brother, her mother is sick, her boyfriend is just getting released, while Jojo is growing up with a mother who doesn’t really take care of him – and on this trip in particular.
I read this book after reading some of Toni Morrison’s work, and found that it somehow had a similar atmosphere, with what of the ghostly presences faced by both Jojo and Leonie. Although unlike Beloved or The Bluest Eye, it does take place nowadays, it sometimes gives off the same kind of eerie feeling. Maybe it’s just because it’s something I am unfamiliar with, but I think it made this book quite powerful.
Overall, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a family story, that deals with love and coming of age, and also manages to tackle the issue of police brutality and racism in general on several occasions, which is yet another reason why I would recommend this book. It’s not an easy read, but it’s definitely worth the ride.