Jesmyn Ward Plans Two New Novels, Including First for Young Adults

By Sameer Rao Feb 07, 2018

"Sing, Unburied, Sing" author Jesmyn Ward announced today (February 7) that she has two new books in the works.

Publisher Simon & Schuster revealed in a statement today that Ward, the winner of two National Book Awards, will write a novel for adults set in antebellum New Orleans. The book will follow an enslaved woman brought there from the Carolinas.

Ward will also write a young adult novel, which the announcement describes as "a magical adventure with a Black Southern female protagonist who possesses special powers." Ward said in the announcement that she wants this book to speak to young Black readers, who rarely see themselves represented with complexity and power in children’s literature. 

"Even though I read voraciously as a child, I never saw myself in books," Ward said. "Without narratives to expand my ideas of who I could be, I accepted the stories others told me about myself, stories which diminished and belittled me and people like me. I want to write against that. I’ve wanted to write a middle grade book for years, a book that might reach the child I once was and expand that child’s sense of self.”

The Associated Press reports that Scribner will publish the adult novel, while Caitlyn Dlouhy Books will release the young adult one. Both are imprints of Simon & Schuster, which did not announce titles or release dates.

Ward earned the 2017 National Book Award in November for "Sing, Unburied, Sing." She won the same award in 2011 for "Salvage the Bones." Both novels follow Black child protagonists in her home state of Mississippi as they work to survive familial trauma.

The MacArthur Foundation also recognized Ward with a “genius grant” last fall.