Sing, Unburied, Sing
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Why read it?
3 authors picked Sing, Unburied, Sing as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?
This richly-told journey story revolves around 13-year-old Jojo and his family. Jojo lives with his grandparents, Mam and Pop, his baby sister, Kayla, and his emotionally absent and drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on the small family farm. The many trials Jojo faces while caring for his baby sister on a trip with his neglectful, selfish mother to Parchman Prison to retrieve his father propel him toward maturity. At the beginning of the novel Jojo says he doesn’t understand his mother, but by the end he has developed understanding.
Jojo in this novel breaks my heart. His mother neglects him, his father is in prison, and he must take care of his three-year-old sister Kayla on his own. He and the other characters in the fictional town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi are haunted by drugs, poverty, and backwoods racism. They are also haunted by ghosts. Jojo’s mother Leonie sees the phantasmic presence of brother Given, and Jojo is followed by the ghost of a boy who was cruelly murdered in Parchman prison. Apparitions wait in the tall trees.
Reading a ghost talking in a book can sometimes feel just like a person talking to you. Or they can tell you strange, beautiful visions and show you the chasm between them and the living, like the ghost of Richie does in Sing, Unburied, Sing. The book ties the crippling poverty and systemic racism of today with the violent racialized past through Richie, who was a boy killed in a prison a generation ago. It’s a book that's almost viscerally uncomfortable to read as Ward asks us to bear real witness to her characters' suffering, but her prose is…
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