Jesmyn Ward is highly decorated. At a recent reading, the roll call of her awards felt like they’d fill the full hour; that day's shortlisting for The Women’s Prize for Fiction was tagged to the end of an already weighty list.
But this Mississippi author was once rejected by book agents who thought her literary stories of impoverished black lives in America’s Deep South would fail to resonate. Instead, she’s not only articulated the struggles and personalities of those previously stripped of a voice, but found something universal in all of them.
Before the Black Lives Matter movement took hold, Ward had already published her memoir, The Men We Reaped. It told the story of five friends and relatives, including her brother — all young, black and male, all lost to accidents, murder or suicide.
Now, she’s releasing more non-fiction, The Fire This Time, an edited collection of writing about race...