Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
This month's read was a heavy one. And once again we find a mother on a journey with her two children, an older boy taking care of a younger girl. And once again, this is present day.
We have book club members who were born in the south or who grew up in the south. Please, come and share your perspectives as we gather to discuss Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward.
Drop us a note and let us know if we can expect you!
1. Did you like this book?
2. Have you read Salvage the Bones? How does it compare?
3. What are the criteria for the National Book Award? Check out this link.
4. What do you make of the title? Who gets to "sing" and who doesn't? Who gets to be "unburied" and why?
5. What do you make of Leonie's and Jojo's visual hallucinations? Supernatural powers? "Magical realism"? What can Kayla and Pop see?
6. Do you have compassion for Leonie? (Corinne's question)
7. Did you have to remind yourself that this book is set in present day? (Question courtesy of former branch manager at O'Neill)
8. What did you make of the back and forth between Jojo and Leonie's perspective? What other characters did you want to read in the first person?
9. Who sings in this book and how? (i.e. Jojo singing to Kayla, family singing Happy Birthday to Jojo, Leonie learning to sing by seeing things / hearing things; Al (Michael's lawyer) greeting them in a singing voice p. 111, Ritchie hearing singing)
10. We just read a book about a mom on a journey with brother protective of younger sister in tow (Heroes of the Frontier). Any other similarities between these two accounts? Do the two mothers share a lack in protective instincts?
11. Why include Ritchie's perspective? Which other perspective(s) would you like to have read?
12. What do you make of Mam's calming down strategy of holding her orange bracelet and praying? What of her admonishment: "Ain't no good in using anger just to lash. You pray for it to blow up a storm that's going to flush out the truth." (145-6).
13. What are the white snake and black bird that visit Ritchie?
14. Why can't Ritchie cross over to the singing?
15. What kind of spirituality is this? (I kept wanting to layer Christian imagery and beliefs on the language and found it wasn't a good fit.)
16. What do you make of the theme of feeling "gutted"? (Skinning of the goat and Jojo's vomiting at the beginning; drugs carving out Leonie's insides; Kayla's illness; Michael's report of the dolphins dying en mass and hollowed out; Ritchie feeling torn inside out while singing in the dirt under the house; Mam feeling empty; termites eating through the pen Pop is destroying)
17. What do you make of the theme of "flooding"? (Most present at the end with a flood filling the room as Mam dies)
18. Why can't the ghosts go home? Do they need to ride on the back of someone else, like Given taking Mam with him?
19. Ritchie tells Jojo he needs to learn about time, home and love. But does Ritchie ever learn these lessons himself? Does Jojo?
20. What would it have taken to get Leonie to change and choose to be a mother?
21. What is going to happen to Pop? He kept his shoulders straight through so much bearing it all, only to crumble at Mam's death. Will he continue to be a father-figure to Jojo?
22. Were Leonie and Mam reconciled in the end?
23. Did anyone ever see the movie "Deepwater Horizon"? (from 2016, portraying the drilling rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010)
24. How much trauma is there in this book and how can we hope for resolution for these characters? The goat's death, Ritchie's death, Given's death, Mam's illness and death, addiction, Deepwater Horizon, incarceration, handcuffed, and all of Pop's memories...
Thank you so much for coming out last night to discuss Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. Thank you to those who hosted and provided delicious sazeracs and to everyone for stomaching another challenging read. Thank you to others for directing us to the Fresh Air Interview with Jesmyn Ward so we could learn how the author pulled this tale from real life experiences and family history. From way up here in the north it's hard to fathom that such a culture is living and breathing today, and we can only begin to process how difficult it must be for the author now to live and raise her own children in her hometown.
Going forward -- we get the hint that we have read several heavy stories (with questionable mothers!) and so are thankful for the suggestion to read something poignant though perhaps a little easier to handle -- it's young adult! Please join us next month on a FRIDAY when we will discuss Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.
If you would like to take a tour of where we have been over the past two years, please check out our reading list here.
For those who would like to read and plan ahead, here's what we're thinking:
December: poem (TBD) and holiday party!
January: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
See you in November!
11/1/2018 05:49:20 am
Man, this book tore me apart. That journey to the penitentiary and back was so painful to read about. I actually read this before I read Salvage the Bones, and found it more viscerally disturbing (maybe because there is a mother present in this story, but she is a very tragic figure caught up in addiction - whereas in STB, the mother is absent). It underscores for me the immense need for evidence-based addiction treatment services that are widely accessible (but that's because I'm coming from a health care perspective, there's certainly other things that are needed from a policy perspective and individual perspective as well). No other deep comments for now since I read this a year ago and can't remember all the details, I am just glad to have an outlet to say hello and talk about the book :). P.S. You are going to LOVE Born a Crime and I highly recommend listening to it on Audiobook b/c Trevor Noah does all the amazing accents himself and it's fantastic.
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The Tipsy Mamas' Book Club is co-hosted by Corinne Foster and myself, though the spirit of our discussions is flavored by many readers.