Illinois libraries present virtual event with author Jesmyn Ward Oct. 12

  • Author Jesmyn WardBeowulf Sheehan

    Author Jesmyn WardBeowulf Sheehan

Updated 9/29/2022 10:46 AM

Vernon Area Public Library will join libraries across the state of Illinois to host award-winning author Jesmyn Ward. Ward will discuss how her literary vision and personal experiences address urgent questions about racism and social injustice. The event will be held virtually on Wednesday, October 12, at 7 p.m.

Hailed as "the new Toni Morrison" by the American Booksellers Association, Ward is the author of fiction, nonfiction and a memoir that The New York Times Book Review called "raw, beautiful, and dangerous." In 2017 she became the first woman and first person of color to win the National Book Award twice, joining the ranks of William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, John Cheever, Philip Roth and John Updike. Ward's novels are set primarily on Mississippi's Gulf Coast and are deeply informed by the trauma of Hurricane Katrina.


"Salvage the Bones," winner of the 2011 National Book Award, is a troubling but ultimately empowering tale of familial bonds set amid the chaos of the hurricane. "Men We Reaped: A Memoir," deals with the loss of five young men in her life: to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that follows people in poverty. Ward edited the critically acclaimed anthology "The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race," a New York Times' bestseller. Her 2017 novel, the critically acclaimed "Sing, Unburied, Sing," won the National Book Award. "A searing, urgent read for anyone who thinks the shadow 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. Ward's latest is "Navigate Your Stars," an adaptation of her 2018 Tulane University commencement speech that champions the value of hard work and the importance of respect for oneself and others.

A professor of creative writing at Tulane University and contributing editor to Vanity Fair, Ward's many honors include the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, a MacArthur "genius grant" and a Strauss Living award for literary excellence from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

"We are excited to host Jesmyn Ward," said Vernon Area Public Library Program Coordinator Roz Topolski, "It's an honor to be able to provide our patrons with the opportunity to learn from a writer who is consistently recognized for confronting race and social injustice through her unforgettable stories."

"A Conversation with Novelist Jesmyn Ward" is presented by Illinois Libraries Present, a statewide collaboration among public libraries. The collaboration is designed to bring virtual events with bestselling, esteemed and diverse speakers to library patrons across the state. Nearly 200 Illinois libraries are part of the cooperative. Working together allows libraries to bring speakers to their communities that might not otherwise be possible due to budget constraints or production capabilities.

Illinois Libraries Present is funded in part by a grant awarded by the Illinois State Library, a department of the Office of Secretary of State, using funds provided by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).

"A Conversation with Novelist Jesmyn Ward" will begin at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 12. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. For more information or to sign up, visit For more information on this speaker visit

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