Sing, Unburied, Sing: An “About Halfway” Review

Jesmyn Ward is a stunning writer. I learned this several months ago when I finally read her first National Award Winning novel, Salvage the Bones. It’s difficult to refrain from feeling when you read her detailed descriptions. And it’s important that you do everything you can to feel, completely. It’s the only way to attempt to know these characters and understand their plight. The first scene of this book was no different. I physically looked away from the page at this moment, only five pages in: I pull. The goat is inside out. Slime and smell everywhere, something musty and sharp, like a man who ain’t took a bath in some days. The skin peels off like a banana. It surprises me every time, how easy it comes away once you pull. The language she uses isn’t necessarily spectacular in any way, but the way she commands these otherwise simple words, makes you see the scene. In this case, a

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Jesmyn Ward Wins the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction

Last night, the National Book Foundation finally announced the winners of the 2017 National Book Awards during their 68th National Book Awards Ceremony. I wasn’t able to watch the live stream because I was waiting for the start of Jay Z’s 4:44 concert at the Bridgestone Arena here in Nashville. But I was eager to know who the winner for fiction would be and was hoping it would be Jesmyn Ward. I encountered Jesmyn Ward’s writing after I decided there needed to be a shift in my reading habits. I have been a fairly consistent reader for years, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized just how few African American authors I had read in recent years. Sure I had been introduced to Maya Angelou, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, and even August Wilson over the course of my high school and undergraduate literature studies. But it was rare for me to read something recent from an African American

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To Be Young, Gifted and Black

This week, I fell into a Donny Hathaway hole. This was surely not the first time. In fact, this happens at least once a year. And usually, it takes me a while to climb back out. This time, I stopped at his cover of “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” a song originally written by Nina Simone and inspired by a play of the same name about Lorraine Hansberry’s life. To be young, gifted and black, Oh what a lovely precious dream. To be young, gifted and black, Open your heart to what I mean. In the whole world you know There are billion boys and girls Who are young, gifted and black, And that’s a fact! Young, gifted and black We must begin to tell our young There’s a world waiting for you This is a quest that’s just begun. When you feel really low Yeah, there’s a great truth you should know When you’re young, gifted and black

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Songs for Sparrow’s Healing

Sparrow is the beautiful story of a 14-year-old girl who is struggling to cope with unfortunate loss at a time when just growing up seems painful. But instead of truly managing her emotions, she escapes. When her escape proves potentially dangerous, she finds herself in therapy unwilling and maybe even unable to communicate just what she feels and why she needs to escape her world. It’s only after her therapist turns on her iPod in the middle of a session that Sparrow finds the words she needs and takes the first steps to live through her life instead of running from it.   Here are some of the songs mentioned in the story: