The Department of English Presents

An Evening with Jesmyn Ward

Thu, Oct 26, 7:30 pm
Free Event, Registration Required

American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreter
Jesmyn Ward

The Department of English Esther Freier Lecture Series presents novelist Jesmyn Ward reading from and discussing her new novel Let Us Descend (published by Scribner on Oct 24). Ward is the MacArthur Fellow and two-time National Book Award-winning author of Sing, Unburied, Sing and Salvage the Bones. Co-sponsored by the Department of African American and African Studies. 

One thousand copies of Ward's book Let Us Descend will be given away. Winning registrants via a random drawing will be notified in advance with instructions on how to pick up books at the event.

Hailed as “the new Toni Morrison” by the American Booksellers Association, Ward is the youngest person to receive the Library of Congress’s Prize for American Fiction and the first woman and first person of color to win the National Book Award for Fiction twice—joining the ranks of William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, John Cheever, Philip Roth, and John Updike. Ward’s novels, primarily set on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, are deeply informed by the trauma of Hurricane Katrina. Ward’s first historical novel, Let Us Descend—out this Oct—tells the story of an enslaved teenage girl sold by her white father after being separated from her mother. Let Us Descend incorporates elements of Dante’s Inferno, magical realism, and slave narratives to explore grief, resilience, imagination, and kinship.

Ward's critically acclaimed novel Sing, Unburied, Sing, won the 2017 National Book Award. “A searing, urgent read for anyone who thinks the shadows of slavery and Jim Crow have passed” (Celeste Ng), Sing was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Aspen Words Literary Prize. Salvage the Bones, winner of the 2011 National Book Award, relates a tale of familial bonds set amid the chaos of the hurricane. Men We Reaped: A Memoir (2013) deals with the loss of five young men in Ward's life—to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that follows people who live in poverty. Ward edited the critically acclaimed anthology The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, a New York Times bestseller. A professor of creative writing at Tulane University and contributing editor to Vanity Fair, Ward’s many honors include a Strauss Living Award.

The Department of English encourages those attending to wear masks, to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms using the Stay Safe MN Health Screening Checklist, and to remember to wash hands often, get tested, and stay home when ill or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.

Know Before You Go

Event Information

  • Seating: General Admission
  • Theater Doors Open: TBD please check back
  • Performance Begins: 7:30 pm
  • Accessibility: Captioning and ASL interpretation provided. Other accessibility services are available upon request.
  • Tickets: Check the email you provided when you placed your order to locate your digital ticket. Be sure to check your spam or junk mail folders if you do not see them.
  • Detailed Event Information: Find Your Event Info link on your order confirmation or check your email within 48 hours for detailed information from Northrop, U of M

If you need assistance with your tickets, please call 612-624-2345, email