Photo by Emily Kask for NPR
For writer Jesmyn Ward, Mississippi is a place she loves and hates all at once.
She grew up and still lives in the tiny town of DeLisle, Miss., close by the Gulf Coast, where, she writes, African-American families like hers are “pinioned beneath poverty and history and racism.”
Those struggles, hinging on race and class, run all through her writing, from her novel Salvage the Bones, which won Ward a National Book Award in 2011; to her searing memoir Men We Reaped, published in 2013; to her new novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing.
Ward, 40, has chosen to return to DeLisle and raise her children there, despite her profound ambivalence about what the town represents. NPR’s Melissa Block visited her there, to talk about place, belonging, and telling the stories of the silenced.