Jesmyn Ward wins National Book Award for Sing, Unburied, Sing

Masha Gessen's The Future is History, which explores the rise of totalitarianism in Russia, received the nonfiction prize.
Jesmyn Ward is the author of Sing, Unburied, Sing. (Beowulf Sheehan, Simon & Schuster Canada)

Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing, a surreal and poetic novel about a struggling family in Mississippi, has won the U.S.-based National Book Award for fiction. It is the second time Ward has received the $10,000 (approximately $12,733 Cdn) fiction prize; she won in 2011 for the novel Salvage the Bones

In a brief, emotional speech, Ward spoke of her frustration with some readers who wondered if they could connect with members of a poor black community in the South. She thanked the publishing community and her friends and family for their ongoing support.

"You looked at me and the people I love and write about... and you saw yourself," she said, adding that she felt honoured to reimagine and amplify the voices of those she knows back home in Mississippi.

Masha Gessen's The Future is History received the nonfiction prize. The book traces the re-emergence of the old Soviet order through the eyes of four young people who have spent their entire adult lives under the rule of Vladimir Putin. 

Robin Benway's Far from the Tree won for young people's literature. The poetry prize was given to Frank Bidart for his career anthology, Half-light

Themes of identity and displacement were common in this year's fiction finalists, from Elliot Ackerman's Middle East saga Dark at the Crossing to Min Jin Lee's novel of cultural conflict in Japan and Korea, Pachinko.  Each finalist receives $1,000 (approximately $1,273 Cdn).

— with files from CBC Books


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