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Entertainment Weekly


National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward to make middle grade debut

Beowulf Sheehan

Posted on

Two-time National Book Award Winner Jesmyn Ward will soon make her middle grade debut.

The author has two books currently in the works with Scribner and Caitlyn Dlouhy Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster’s Atheneum Books for Young Readers), an adult novel and a book for young readers respectively. The former “will be set in New Orleans during the height of the domestic slave trade, and centers on an enslaved woman sent south from the Carolinas to New Orleans, site of the country’s largest slave market,” according to a press release. The latter mid-grade novel “will be a magical adventure with a black Southern female protagonist who possesses special powers.”

Publication dates and further details for both works have yet to be determined.

On writing her first novel for younger readers, Ward says, “Even though I read voraciously as a child, I never saw myself in books. Without narratives to expand my ideas of who I could be, I accepted the stories others told me about myself, stories which diminished and belittled me and people like me. I want to write against that. I’ve wanted to write a middle grade/YA book for years, a book that might reach the child I once was and expand that child’s sense of self.”

Ward’s 2017 novel Sing, Unburied, Sing, also published with Scribner, won the 2017 National Book Award, making her the first woman ever to win the NBA for Fiction twice (The first, for her 2011 novel Salvage the Bones). She is also a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient and winner of the Strauss Living Award for literary excellence in 2016.