“Sing, Unburied, Sing” by Jesmyn Ward is the book of choice for the Women’s Center book club this spring. Named one of the 10 best books by The New York Times in 2017, the internationally-acclaimed novel revolves around a family living in the fictional town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi.
According to Elizabeth Moran, a graduate assistant for the Women’s Center, “Sing” pursues relevant themes such as family, addiction and drug use, illness, racism and more. The novel’s wide breadth of topics makes it relatable to many students with vastly different backgrounds.
“This book really incorporates so many different things that a lot of people experience on a daily basis,” Moran said. “Honestly, this book has a little bit of everything.”
The family dynamics embedded within the plot also made it a perfect choice for the book club, given the coronavirus pandemic that continues to burden the nation.
“There’s a lot of family dynamics, which, as we’ve seen in the past few months — when we’re all quarantined at home with each other, being really close with family members,” Moran said.
Kali Fillhart, a fourth-year studying anthropology, calls the book “magical in the non-fantasy sense” and looks forward to the discussions that the novel will surely spark.
“I’m looking forward to the conversation,” Fillhart said. “The book is a very, very interesting and timely book and I’m just excited to get into the topics.”
This semester, the Women’s Center had to make some changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Taking on a “structured-unstructured” approach, the book club sessions will be entirely virtual, and guided questions will be discussed in small breakout groups via Zoom. Despite the loss of in-person dialogue and discourse, the breakout rooms will allow for more personal conversations.
“We’re going to have more help from the Counseling Center and other facilitators, to come in and try to make smaller groups,” Fillhart said. “With the breakout rooms on Zoom, we’re going to try to make it as personalized as we possibly can.”
In another change from years prior, the Women’s Center will be partnering with the Counseling Center to implement 30-minute “grounding sessions” after the meetings due to the heavy themes of “Sing.” Moran said that the counseling sessions will be crucial given the current events.
“Some of the topics might make some people feel uncomfortable and need that extra space to… have a guided breathing technique or a grounding exercise,” Moran said. “We’re partnering with the Counseling Center and Prevention Services to try and have some of that backup support for the book club members.”
Despite the heavy themes present throughout the novel, the gripping plot and vivid characters will make the whole journey worthwhile.
“[‘Sing’] so beautifully ties the past into the current, the little annoyances with the big annoyances,” Fillhart said. “It’s really just so beautifully crafted.”
Students who are interested in joining the book club can sign up here or attend an interest session on Tuesday, Jan. 26 at 4 p.m. Formal book discussions will run weekly from Feb. 2 to Mar. 30 from 4-5 p.m., with an optional 30-minute grounding session after each book club meeting.