On this episode of “Literary Arts: The Archive Project,” author Jesmyn Ward discusses the circumstances, both personal and political, that drive her to write. A master of arresting, powerful language, Ward’s work deals explicitly with issues of race, class, and those who live on the margins of America. In this sobering, incredibly intimate lecture, Ward describes the impact of her early life in rural, Gulf Coast Mississippi, the sudden death of her teenage brother in 2000, Hurricane Katrina, and the recent birth of her son. Ward uses her family’s history to create a vivid portrait of what means to be black in America today and the psychological, emotional toll that comes with it.
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. Ward received her MFA from the University of Michigan and has received the MacArthur Genius Grant, a Stegner Fellowship, a John and Renee Grisham Writers Residency, and the Strauss Living Prize. Betsy Burton of the American Booksellers Association has called her “the new Toni Morrison.” In November 2017, she became the first woman and the first person of color to win two National Book Awards for Fiction for her novels “Men We Reaped” and “Sing, Unburied, Sing.” She is currently an associate professor of creative writing at Tulane University and lives in Mississippi.