MacArthur Genius and two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward 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. Her writing, which encompasses fiction, nonfiction, and memoir, is “raw, beautiful, and dangerous” (The New York Times Book Review). 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 bestseller. Her newest novel, the critically acclaimed Sing, Unburied, Sing, won the 2017 National Book Award. Sing has been called “a searing, urgent read for anyone who thinks the shadows of slavery and Jim Crow have passed” (Celeste Ng). Sing was named one of the best books of 2017 by The New York Times, Time, The 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.
Sponsored by the Diana and Simon Raab Writer-in-Residence Program, created to bring distinguished practitioners of the craft of writing to the UCSB community. Co-presented by the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center and the Writing Program.