Jesmyn Ward’s SING, UNBURIED, SING Wins Mark Twain American Voice In Literature Award

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The Mark Twain House & Museum is pleased to announce that Jesmyn Ward’s novel SING, UNBURIED, SING is the winner of this year’s Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award.

“I am very honored to receive this prize, named for the luminary Mark Twain,” Ward says. “He wrote toward the uncomfortable in the American experience, and I am so humbled to follow his lead in my own work.”

Ward will be honored at a ceremony on Wednesday, May 15, at 7 p.m. at The Mark Twain House & Museum. The public is invited to the free ceremony, at which Ward will read and speak about her work. Pre-signed books will be available for purchase.

The Mark Twain American Voice in Literature (MTAVL) award is presented by The Mark Twain House & Museum to the author whose recent book of fiction best embodies an “American voice” such as Twain established in his masterpiece ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN.

Judges noted that SING, UNBURIED, SING “chronicles the inbred racism that is America’s original (and persistent) sin, and does it through Southern dialect blended with lyricism, a potent mix.”
The judges further observed that “the book, not unlike Huck, is unmistakably American in its tone and subject matter. The tackling of racism, mass incarceration, drug use, poverty, and gris gris in the South read and felt truly and only of this country.”

The critically acclaimed book won Ward her second National Book Award. (Her first was in 2011 for SALVAGE THE BONES.) She is professor of creative writing at Tulane University, a 2017 MacArthur Fellow, and a 2010 recipient of a John and Renee Grisham Writers Residency at the University of Mississippi.

The awards will be presented by David Baldacci and Roger Michel, Jr., both trustees of The Mark Twain House & Museum. Baldacci was the impetus behind the MTAVL’s founding, and he and Michel are benefactors of the award and ceremony. Baldacci, who will speak at the ceremony, says of the MTAVL, “I can think of no better writer to honor in this way than Mark Twain, the man who was the voice of American literature.”

Author Bill Beverly, who won the prize for his novel DODGERS in 2017, says the award allowed him to take a year away from his teaching job to complete a draft of his new novel. In a letter to the Twain House, Beverly said: “The award was a particularly dear recognition, as I love Twain’s writing and biography and East [the main character in DODGERS] is certainly spiritually kin to Huckleberry Finn. I should say that the financial award has kept food in the pans and socks on the feet around here. It has surely been a blessing, and I thank David Baldacci and Roger Michel…”
T.C. Boyle was the first MTAVL award winner for his 2015 novel THE HARDER THEY COME.

Two rounds of judges considered 55 novels published in 2017 and 2018. Final judges were Kerry Driscoll, a Twain scholar, Twain House trustee, and author of MARK TWAIN AMONG THE INDIANS AND OTHER INDIGENOUS PEOPLES; Carole Goldberg, author of “The Write Stuff” column and former books editor at The Hartford Courant; and Jacques Lamarre, playwright and director of client services for BuzzEngine.

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