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Sing Unburied Sing



An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle.


Jesmyn Ward


Reader Appeal: Adults


Once you begin this story it will be hard to look away. It’s gritty and beautiful, painful and unforgiving.  JoJo the 13-year-old storyteller is going to pull the curtain back on his family that is broken in pieces. Drug addiction, racial hatred, abandonment, death and ghosts (literal and figurative) all collide in this book.

I know it’s fiction, I knew it before I even read the first page, but with all good fiction there is a touch of reality. Jesmyn Ward is going to show the reader that in parts of the south the races are still divided by a chasm that seems as wide as time. JoJo and his sister have an African-American mother and a White father. Both of JoJo’s parents are drug addicts and Leonie, JoJo’s mother (who is also a storyteller) is an unapologetic addict.


You’ll meet JoJo’s hero, Pop, his grandfather. Pop’s stories of his time in prison made me cry, but I couldn’t turn away because I knew that there was more truth than fiction in his story. There is also Michael JoJo’s father, who is getting out of prison. To say his relationship with Pop is complicated is an understatement. Then there is JoJo’s grandmother Mam. She is dying slowly, but it is her story, her past that impacts JoJo, Leonie and baby sister Michaela the most.


Our final storyteller is Richie. It’s his story that you hope is all fiction, but deep down I knew that Jesmyn pulled it from reality.

There are books that I finish and never think about again. Then there are books like Sing, Unburied, Sing. Even days after I finished it, I thought about the characters, about their stories and about the author. I wondered why she wrote it. I’ve never wondered that about a book before. Sing, Unburied, Sing is sad. Each time a new chapter started I wanted a ray of sunshine but there was none. That to me is what made this book so good.


Let's Talk About It

Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this book:


• Do you prefer books with happy endings? Why? Do you have to know the end before you read a book?

• JoJo loves his Pop. What stories do you have about your grandparents? Do you know a lot about their past? 

• Pop gives JoJo a bag of trinkets to keep his mind off the drive to prison. What would you want in your bag? What would you put in a bag for someone? Why?



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