Jesmyn Ward, a two-time National Book Award winner who has been hailed as the heir to William Faulkner and one of TIME magazine’s Most Influential People of 2018, is a professor of creative of writing in the Tulane Department of English.
Ward, who received the 2017 MacArthur Fellows “Genius Grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, is the author of five critically acclaimed works including “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” which won the 2017 National Book Award and “Salvage the Bones,” the 2011 National Book Award winner.
In 2018, Ward delivered the keynote address for Tulane University’s Commencement, received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in the fiction category and her novel, “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” was selected for One Book, One Philadelphia as the official reading selection for the city in 2019.
A native of DeLisle, Mississippi, Ward was the first in her family to attend college, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Arts in media studies and communication from Stanford University. In 2005, she received a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Michigan. That same year she was stranded in a farm field with her family after the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina destroyed their DeLisle home. This experience informed Ward’s first novel “Where the Line Bleeds.”
Following her first novel, Ward published four more works including “Men We Reaped” (2013) and “The Fire This Time” (2016). Collectively the works have earned her a place as one of the nation’s most powerful and eloquent literary voices.
Ward joined Tulane’s faculty as an associate professor of English in 2014 and received the Strauss Living Award for literary excellence in 2016 from the Academy of Arts and Letters that same year.
Areas of Expertise (4)
Strauss Living Award for literary excellence
National Book Award Winner
2017 (Sing, Unburied, Sing); 2011 (Salvage the Bones)
MacArthur Fellows “Genius Grant”
TIME magazine’s Most Influential People
Tulane University Commencement Keynote Speaker
Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction
2018 (Sing, Unburied, Sing)
One Book, One Philadelphia
2019 (Sing, Unburied, Sing)
(Official reading selection of the city)
Stanford University: B.A.
Stanford University: M.A.
University of Michigan: M.F.A.
Media Appearances (5)
The Books Briefing: What to Read on Your Holiday Trip
The Atlantic online
Ward anchors the book in the narrator’s onerous trip with her two children and drug-addled best friend to pick up [her husband,] Michael, who is serving the final days of his sentence—and loops in two restless ghosts searching for deliverance from those still mourning their deaths.”
How Glory Edim and Well-Read Black Girl Are Creating and Transforming Communities of Readers
Vanity Fair online
And just last week, Edim’s first book hit the shelves. The anthology, Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves (Ballantine Books), features essays from literary heavyweights including Jesmyn Ward, Jacqueline Woodson, and Tayari Jones, alongside burgeoning writers like Zinzi Clemmons and Morgan Jerkins. The book operates on the same principles as Edim’s book clubs: it welcomes black girls and women to encounter their own being through the reading of other black women. It’s a book that builds bridges across and between generations; it’s a book that provides black girls and women the space to ask more questions—and be O.K. with not having the answers. Most important, it’s a book that emboldens women to tell their own stories, letting them know that there’s always a community ready to listen...
The Urgency of Jesmyn Ward
New Statesman America online
Jesmyn Ward is the only woman to have won the National Book Award for Fiction in America twice, most recently with her new novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing. She’s also a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow and a New York Times bestselling author. She isn’t well known over here yet, but she should be. As the editor of the collection of essays, The Fire This Time, she aims to respond to James Baldwin’s legendary exposition on race, The Fire Next Time (1963) by providing a forum for a new generation “to dissent, to call to account, to witness, to reckon”.
Jesymn Ward: Black girls are silenced, misunderstood and underestimated
The Guardian online
If Jesmyn Ward’s fiction tends towards the epic, that is maybe because her life has been marked by monumental events. “I fought from the very beginning”, she says. Born prematurely at just 26 weeks, she was badly attacked by her father’s pit bull as a small child, her younger brother was killed at 19, and, along with several generations of her family, she sheltered from Hurricane Katrina in a truck. Yet today she is the first woman to win the US national book award for fiction twice, hailed by a leading reviewer as “one of the most powerfully poetic writers in the country”. And on the morning we meet, it has just been announced that she has been shortlisted for the Women’s prize for fiction for her novel Sing, Unburied, Sing.
Q&A with author Jesmyn Ward
Financial Times online
Jesmyn Ward was born in Oakland, California, in 1977. She studied at Stanford and the University of Michigan. She is the author of three novels, a memoir and a collection of essays. She has a Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a MacArthur Fellowship. Ward lives in Mississippi with her family.