Jesmyn Ward

by Lee Daniels
Daymon Gardner

Jesmyn Ward’s writing is brutal and moving, tragic and beautiful. While she writes about the modern American South, where she grew up, the realities for black men are very much the same as where I grew up in Philly. The feeling of there being no way out, of people turning to drugs to feel less like themselves, the endless pervasiveness of death, dysfunction and detention.

When I first read her memoir, Men We Reaped—about five young black men, all of whom died within a span of four years in her life—I understood the weight of grief as one struggles to live. And I felt the same way with her brilliant new novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing. From the first lines—“I like to think I know what death is. I like to think that it’s something I could look at straight”—she punched me in the gut and didn’t let go.

Jesmyn captures the African-American experience with authenticity and nuance. She is a modern-day William Faulkner, painting tapestries of an America that has not been heard.

Daniels is a writer, Oscar-nominated director and producer, and co-creator of Empire

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