Select language, opens an overlay
Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing

A Novel

eBook - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn't lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won't acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager. His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister's lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is Black and her children's father is White. She wants to be a better mother but can't put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she's high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances. When the children's father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.
Publisher: New York : Scribner, 2017.
ISBN: 9781501126093
Branch Call Number: E-BOOK
Characteristics: 1 online resource (289 pages)
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc


From Library Staff

This National Book Award winner deals with the legacies of racism, poverty, incarceration
and addiction in rural Mississippi. Using ghosts and magical realism, Ward cleverly mingles
the pain of past and present generations of a fractured African American family who try to
rise above their circums... Read More »

A story of hope, and struggle, Ward’s novel explores the life of Jojo, a thirteen year old boy, and his family, as he begins to understand what “being a man” means. An exploration of race, of family limitations, of violence and of legacies.

"Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to h... Read More »

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Apr 13, 2021

Reminiscent of ‘Beloved,’ but personally I thought this author did much better conveying these heavy themes through magical realism.

Mar 11, 2021

Jccc book group

Jan 18, 2021

Magic realism in the Deep South? Cool!

Jan 06, 2021

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward tells a story from multiple points of view, Jojo’s, Leonie’s, and Richie’s. Jojo is Leonie’s son, and Richie is a ghost from Jojo’s grandfather’s past. Together, they tell the story of an African American family living in poverty in the 1930s. This novel brings out the heart and fierceness of its main protagonists, and works as a criticism of US history. I truly enjoyed this coming of age, historical fiction book. It is filled with complex narratives and magical elements, and I highly recommend it to any reader.

Oct 02, 2020

I should remember if I read this, but can't.

Sep 10, 2020

This National Book Award winner was undeserving of the prize. Set in Mississippi, it is the story of an unfit mother, her teenage son and infant daughter, and the car trip they take to pick up the children’s white father when he is released from prison. There was a lot of throwing up in this novel, with Kayla, the infant, getting carsick. And then the concoction made up of roadside plants that Leonie gives her daughter only makes her sicker, resulting in more throwing up. And to top it all off, there are ghosts in the story that only Leonie and her son, Jojo, can see and talk with. Purportedly, an exposition on racism and the legacy of slavery, this novel was shackled by bad writing and a fuzzy narrative . . . and a lot of throwing up.

Hillsboro_JeanineM Jun 23, 2020

Clear your schedule so that you can read this book uninterrupted. It is a beautifully written with well-developed characters. It is a generational story with ghosts and folk remedies. You can feel the humidity. It brought to mind Nina Simone singing "Mississippi goddamn" and a road trip I took through the South many years ago.

Jun 10, 2020

Jesmyn Ward has a gift for presenting the horrors of our world in such a captivating, haunting manner, her reader cannot leave the final page the same person he or she was at its first.

Sing, Unburied, Sing uncovers the realities of drug use's effects on users, their families and their communities as well as the far-reaching effects of racism and injustice on society.

I love the way Jesmyn wove the three first-person narrators through the book. I found myself empathizing and sympathizing with all three. As with her other books, this is a hard, hard story to witness, but it is one we all need to read and understand and commit to change.

Dec 12, 2019

So depressing. Child abuse. child neglect, animal abuse, meth manufacturing, cocaine use. I couldn't finish it.

multcolib_susannel Sep 07, 2019

Vibrant writing, complex characters and dark secrets tell this compelling story of three generations of an African-American family in Mississippi.

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability
Mar 17, 2018

ranvapa thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


Add a Quote
Dec 27, 2018

He wasn't nothing but a boy, Jojo. They kill animals better than that.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at OPL

To Top