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Sing, Unburied, Sing

Why have I not read Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward sooner?? This haunting family drama was beyond beautiful and the metaphorical writing was incredibly thought provoking. We read Ward's book for the July My Night's Book Clubbed and it was a great one to discuss and dissect. I highly recommend this one for your next book club discussion.

Jojo is a thirteen year old Black boy growing up in the deep south of Mississippi. He lives with his grandpa and grandma, Pop and Mam, and baby sister Kayla, as well as his mother Leonie. Leonie struggles with drug addiction and is far from a stellar parent. Jojo and Kayla's father, Michael, is incarcerated, but word reaches Leonie that he is being released. Jojo's life with Pop and Mam is packed up to head to Parchman prison to pick up his father. Jojo is at the cusp of becoming a man, discovering who he is, and he wants to be. Told from multiple character perspectives and mingled with voices of deceased characters, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a literary fiction novel for the ages.

Ward is an incredible writer. Jojo's story flowed off the page and I found myself re-reading sections to fully absorb the context. Sing, Unburied, Sing discusses heavy themes, such as racism, modern-day slavery, addiction, poverty, parental neglect, incarceration, and terminal illness. This multi-generational story included voices from ghosts of the past that played into the lives of the living. The overarching theme that life is not linear and is all encompassing shown through each page. I loved the relationship between the stories of the dead and the living. It really portrayed how the dead are among us in ways we do not even realize and that as far as we can get from the past, we still are not that far away and still have more work to do.

Below are a list of discussion questions that generated our book club conversation. Feel free to use any of these for your next book club meeting.

Discussion questions:

  • How do the stories of the ghosts influence the stories of the living?

  • Were you sympathetic to any parts of Leonie's story? Why or why not?

  • What does "home" mean to you?

  • What was your reaction when you learned how Richie died? Did that change how you viewed Pop?

  • Why do you think Jojo and Kayla could see the dead, but Mam could not and Leonie only could if she was high?

Happy reading!


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