Book Review: Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing is immediately spiritual, magical even. While the book underscores the horrors of a Jim Crow South, and its legacy of violent dehumanization, it’s not without tenderness and the affirmation of black dignity.

“It stays with me, a bruise in the memory that hurts when I touch it.”

It pushes and pulls with a symbiotic rhythm, pulsing like a heartbeat. It’s riveting and evocative without being sensational. It’s both graceful and heavy—hard at its core and soft around its edges. Even the surrealities are written with such conviction, they’re not only unquestioned but embraced.

Can't nothing bother me when I got my hands in the dirt, he said. Like I'm talking to God with my fingers.

Sing, Unburied, Sing is song, but it's also power. It's a story of trans-generational survival, the ways in which love bonds, and the steadfastness of ones own moral compass. I’m grateful for the conversations had in Sing, the ones that swirl around my own household and remain unsaid. Some pain is so acute, no matter how historic, it can’t be articulated. Ward, though, releases that burden from our loved ones and helps us leverage the pasts to make sense of the present.

“Some days later, I understood what he was trying to say, that getting grown means learning how to work that current: learning when to hold fast, when to drop anchor, when to let it sweep you up.”

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