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jesmyn ward
An acclaimed American novelist and professor, Ward is known for her poignant explorations of race, family, and Southern life, receiving widespread recognition for her literary contributions.
2024 fitzgerald award honoree
jesmyn ward
Jesmyn Ward is an author with a remarkable literary journey marked by numerous accolades. She has published four novels, including Where the Line Bleeds (2008), Salvage the Bones (2011), Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017), and Let Us Descend (2023). In addition to her novels, Ward has also contributed a memoir, Men We Reaped (2013), a book derived from her commencement speech at Tulane University, Navigate Your Stars (2020), and she has edited The Fire This Time (2016).
Born in Berkeley, California, Ward relocated to Mississippi at the age of three, and her writing prowess has been honed through academic pursuits. She earned a BA and an MA in Media Studies and Communication from Stanford University, followed by an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan. During her time at the University of Michigan, she won five Hopwood Awards for her fiction, essays, and drama.
Ward’s debut novel, Where the Line Bleeds, was published in 2008, earning recognition as a book club selection by Essence and receiving the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Honor Award. Following a stint as a Stegner Fellow at Stanford from 2008 to 2010, her second novel, Salvage the Bones, garnered critical acclaim by winning the National Book Award and the Alex Award.
Her memoir, Men We Reaped, delves into the poignant theme of loss, focusing on the death of Ward’s brother and four other black men in her hometown. Jesmyn Ward won a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant in 2017. Her third novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing, won her a second National Book Award but also the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. The Fire This Time was acknowledged as one of NPR’s Best Books of the Year.
In 2023, Ward’s historical novel, Let Us Descend, was honored as an Oprah’s Book Club selection and was a finalist for the Carnegie Medal for Fiction. Her remarkable literary contributions were further highlighted in 2016 when she received the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. Most recently, in 2022, she was awarded the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.

…Ward’s achievements include a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant in 2017 and a library of congress prize for excellence in american fiction…

Currently, Ward imparts her knowledge and passion for creative writing as a faculty member at Tulane University. Her ongoing projects include an adult novel set in New Orleans during the height of the American slave trade and a young adult novel exploring the narrative of a young Black girl from the South endowed with supernatural powers. Jesmyn Ward’s commitment to storytelling and her impact on American literature are a testament to her enduring literary legacy.
Video Courtesy of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
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