The Millions

Literature’s Inherited Trauma: On Jesmyn Ward’s ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’

The dead chase the living in Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jesmyn Ward’s new novel about the legacy of trauma. In Ward’s last novel, Salvage the Bones, the main character is preoccupied with the mythological tale of Medea, a woman left heartbroken. Here, Ward traces an American highway odyssey, from the Mississippi Gulf Coast to Parchman Farm, the notorious state penitentiary. Bouncing between the past and present, between ghosts and breathing bodies, between drug-induced fantasy and raw, heartbreaking reality, Sing, Unburied, Sing follows a family that seems to descend from earlier novels like Beloved and , uniting past and present suffering.  Ward’s fiction is about inherited trauma in a deeply divided society, where the oppressor and the oppressed share a legacy.

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