Jesmyn Ward

2019 Speaker

JESMYN WARD is a MacArthur Genius, and two-time National Book Award winner. She has been called “the new Toni Morrison” (American Booksellers Association). In 2017, she became the first woman and first person of color to win the National Book Award twice—joining the ranks of William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, John Cheever, Philip Roth, and John Updike. Ward’s novels, primarily set on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, are deeply informed by the trauma of Hurricane Katrina. Salvage the Bones, winner of the 2011 National Book Award, is a troubling but ultimately empowering tale of familial bonds set amid the chaos of the hurricane. Ward’s memoir, Men We Reaped, deals with the loss of five young men in her life—to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that follows people who live in poverty. In 2016, Ward edited the critically acclaimed anthology The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, a New York Times best-seller. Her newest novel, the critically acclaimed Sing, Unburied, Sing, won the 2017 National Book Award. Sing was named one of the best books of 2017 by The New York Times, TimeThe Washington Post, and Publisher’s Weekly. Sing was also nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Aspen Words Literary Prize. An associate professor of creative writing at Tulane University, Ward received the 2016 Strauss Living Award and a 2017 MacArthur Genius Grant, and was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2018. Scribner recently reissued her debut novel, Where The Line Bleeds. @jesmimi

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