Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award for fiction for Sing, Unburied , Sing, a saga of family and race set in her native Mississippi.
From Ms. Wards acceptance speech:
“Throughout my career when I’ve been rejected, there was sometimes subtext, and it was this: ‘People will not read your work because these are not universal stories.’ I don’t know if some doorkeepers felt this way because I wrote about poor people or because I wrote about black people or because I wrote about Southerners. As my career progressed and I got some affirmations, I still encountered that mindset every now and again. I still find myself having uncomfortable conversations with reluctant readers who initially didn’t want to read my work because they said, ‘What do I have in common with a pregnant 15-year-old?’ They said, ‘Why should I read about a 13-year-old poor black boy or his neglectful drug-addicted mother? What do they have to say to me?’
“And you, my fellow writers and editors and publishing people and National Book Foundation folks who read my work, you answered plainly. You looked at me and the people I love and write about. You looked at my poor, my black, my Southern children, women and men, and you saw yourself. You saw your grief, your love, your losses, your regrets, your joy, your hope, and I am deeply grateful to each and every one of you who reads my work and finds something that sings to you, that moves you in it. I hope to continue this conversation with you for all of our days.”