An Evening with Jesmyn Ward
MacArthur "Genius" Jesmyn Ward is described as the standout writer of her generation. The first woman and the first person of color to win two National Book Awards for Fiction-joining the ranks of Faulkner, Bellow, Cheever, Roth, and Updike-Ward's novels Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017) and Salvage the Bones (2011) build deep empathy for the human condition. Described as "the new Toni Morrison" by Betsy Burton of the American Booksellers Association, Ward's stories are largely set on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, where she grew up and still lives, and her writing is deeply informed by the trauma of Hurricane Katrina.
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. Lauded by Kirkus Reviews as a "modern rejoinder to Black Like Me [and] Beloved," Men We Reaped is a beautiful and painful homage to Ward's ghosts and the haunted yet hopeful place she calls home. Men We Reaped won the Heartland Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.