DMA Arts & Letters Live: Jesmyn Ward
MacArthur Genius and two-time National Book Award winner, Jesmyn Ward, has been hailed as the standout writer of her generation, proving her “fearless and toughly lyrical” voice in novels, memoir, and nonfiction. In 2017, she became the first woman and the first person of color to win two National Book Awards for Fiction.
Ward’s stories are largely set on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, where she grew up and still lives. Shortly after Ward received her MFA, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, and she was forced to evacuate her rapidly flooding home. Ward’s writing is deeply informed by the trauma of Katrina, and her novel, 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. With Sing, Unburied, Sing, which earned her a second National Book Award in 2017, Ward explores the bonds of a family tested by racism and poverty.
Ward teaches creative writing at Tulane University in New Orleans. In 2017, she was recognized with a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant for her work “exploring the enduring bonds of community and familial love among poor African-Americans,” and in 2018, she was recognized among Time’s 100 Most Influential People.