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Literary Analysis of Ward’s “Sing, Unburied, Sing”

Jesmyn Ward: A Celebrated Author in American Literature

Jesmyn Ward is considered an important author in American literature owing to her ability to showcase an intimate and in-depth understanding of language. Ward’s works explore American families and their diverse cultures. All of Ward’s novels are set in the small town of Bois Sauvage, where she lives today and where she grew up. She has been associated with many families in her hometown, thereby, making her stories to be relatable.

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Ward uses simple descriptions, such as names, to spotlight a family’s issues while striking dialogue with her work. Ward tells stories through the perspectives of different characters and demonstrates the ability to shape a simple story into a complex journey about family and coming of age. She uses dialogue and presents a cunny use of language to make her stories relatable. Additionally, the author uses the individual characters in her stories to identify mental differences in a family and society at large. These differences are assumed to help the individuals transition into adulthood. For example, themes such as time, love, and the changing definition of a home have been used to show character development in her book.

The author’s writing is characterized by her subtle messaging and clear details about life. Her life in Bois Sauvage made her familiar with the hidden impacts of intergenerational trauma, and this is brought out in her work. Through her literary texts, Ward effectively proves that little events that affect a familial relationship play a significant role in the bigger problems the family faces. Her current novel “Sing, Unburied, Sing”, has won her a second National Book Award for Fiction, due to the text’s ability to resonate with the readers as well as the author’s prowess in writing.

Similar Themes Discussed So Far

The impact of American racism, loss of innocence as well as family relationships are some of the themes that are well brought out in the excerpt. Ward focuses on how a racist past still haunts many households through her novel “Sing, Unburied, Sing”. She nattily confronts the racism theme, making the reader inquire how such concerns can be resolved without ignoring the different emotions of the parties involved. Additionally, Ward delves into the theme of familial relationship, where she proves that a family unit has significant meaning compared to biological relationships and the typical concept of the nuclear family. A family unit, in this sense, includes friends and extended relatives. In the excerpt, Jojo and Kayla have both parents, but one is in jail while the other is a drug addict. As a result, Jojo and Kayla’s grandparents take on parental roles and their carefree approach pushes the two children to grow up faster than normal.

Comparison of Themes

A comparison of the selected excerpt and other literary works discussed so far reveals that trauma, drug abuse, and racism are common themes. Jojo expected a birthday cake from Mam who, as stated by Ward, was “sweating, her skin looks pale and dry, like a muddy puddle dried to nothing after weeks of no rain in the summer” (Ward, p. 17). Jojo is traumatized by her grandmother’s sickness. Even though the novel is set in 2010, the characters in “Sing, Unburied, Sing” still feel the repercussions of America’s history of racial discrimination. The fact that Kayla and Jojo are biracial makes life harder for them. Much of the story from the excerpt involves Jojo trying to deal with the trauma of living with a sick grandmother and a drug-addicted mother as she tries to discover her self-worth.

Work Cited

Ward, Jesmyn. Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel. Simon & Schuster, 2017.

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