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Award-Winning Author Jesmyn Ward to Speak at UW April 20

March 28, 2022
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Jesmyn Ward, an acclaimed memoirist, essayist and award-winning author, will speak Wednesday, April 20, at the University of Wyoming. (Beowulf Sheehan Photo)

Acclaimed memoirist, essayist and award-winning author Jesmyn Ward will speak Wednesday, April 20, at the University of Wyoming.

Her presentation, which is free and open to the public, will be at 5 p.m. in the UW College of Arts and Sciences auditorium. It also will be livestreamed via UW’s WyoCast system at https://wyocast.uwyo.edu/WyoCast/Play/e1fb9968e8d14ee68f6d8b3dd8ac7c041d.

A book signing will occur immediately following the talk. The University Store will have copies of her books available for purchase before and after the talk.

Those attending the evening talk are encouraged to arrive early to allow time for parking and seating. Additionally, attendees can use the free shuttle service. For more information about campus parking and shuttle services, visit www.uwyo.edu/tps.

Ward is the first woman and the first person of color to win the National Book Award for Fiction twice. “Salvage the Bones,” the winner of the 2011 prize, is a tale of familial bonds set amid the chaos of Hurricane Katrina. “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” which won the 2017 award, is a road novel through Mississippi’s past and present that explores the bonds of a family tested by racism and poverty. 

Her latest book, 2020’s “Navigate Your Stars,” is 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. Ward is a professor at Tulane, where she teaches creative writing.

“Jesmyn Ward is a spectacular writer who challenges us all to look hard at contemporary America,” says Peter Parolin, dean of the UW Honors College. “Her books are compelling, gorgeous and heart-breaking. We’re especially thrilled to have her on campus this semester because all of our first-year students are reading ‘Salvage the Bones’ in their ‘Honors Colloquium’ class. Creating experiential educational opportunities for students to meet with the writers whose works they are studying is one of our hallmarks at UW.”

In her talks, Ward shares her writing process and how her experiences growing up poor and Black in the South continue to influence her work.

In 2017, she was recognized with a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant for her work “exploring the enduring bonds of community and familial love among poor African-Americans of the rural South against a landscape of circumscribed possibilities and lost potential.” In 2018, she was recognized among Time’s 100 Most Influential People.

In addition to being a writer and professor, she also is the editor of the critically acclaimed anthology “The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race,” and she is a contributing editor for Vanity Fair.

Ward received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan, where she won five Hopwood Awards for her fiction, essays and drama. She held a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University and served as the Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi.

She is at work on two additional new books: a novel set in New Orleans at the height of the American slave trade and a young adult novel about a Black girl from the South with supernatural powers.

For more information about Ward, visit her website at www.jesmynwardauthor.com.

Ward’s presentation is sponsored by the Honors College, UW Libraries, Wyoming Humanities, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of English, the School of Culture, Gender and Social Justice and the Wyoming Institute for Humanities Research.

For more information about Ward’s presentation, call the UW Honors College at (307) 766-4110 or email Parolin at parolin@uwyo.edu.

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