Jesmyn Ward Interview

Jesmyn Ward Talks National Book Award Win and the Will to Write
by Julianne Hing

When Jesmyn Ward’s second novel “Salvage the Bones” was awarded the National Book Award two weeks ago, which she explained to her family as the “Oscars for books,” it immediately propelled Ward, a relative newcomer, onto the national stage. It also shone a light on her story of a poor black family living and loving in a rural backwater Gulf Coast town in the days before Hurricane Katrina.

The place and the people were inspired by her own hometown of Delisle, Miss. In the book, the family of siblings have better things to do than fret about the storm, which is just days away from making landfall. They’re chasing basketball dreams, tending to beloved spouse-pets, and in the case of Esch, the book’s 15-year-old narrator, struggling to accept the new life growing in her.

Ward, who called her recent win “surreal,” chatted with about conventional depictions of black women, giving life to the stories of people she grew up with, and having the courage to commit to writing.

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