Conversations in Craft and Content: Jesmyn Ward

Photo of author Jesmyn Ward by Beowulf Sheehan

Arizona State University presents Conversations in Craft and Content, a new creative writing lecture series hosted and moderated by Mitchell Jackson, Guggenheim fellow, Pulitzer winner, and the John O. Whiteman Dean's Distinguished Professor of English at ASU.

The series brings lauded writers to ASU for lectures on the ideas in their work, as well as their writing and revision process and the philosophies that guide them. It welcomes two-time National Book Award-winner Jesmyn Ward as its inaugural guest in a virtual event on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022 at 6 p.m. AZ/MST (5 p.m. PST / 7 p.m. CST / 8 p.m. EST).


About the guest

Hailed as “the new Toni Morrison” by the American Booksellers Association, Jesmyn Ward is the author of fiction, nonfiction, and 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 for Fiction twice—joining the ranks of William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, John Cheever, Philip Roth, and John Updike. Ward’s novels, primarily set on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, 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 who live in poverty. Ward edited the critically acclaimed anthology The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, a New York Times bestseller.

Her newest novel, the critically acclaimed Sing, Unburied, Sing, won the 2017 National Book Award. Named “a searing, urgent read for anyone who thinks the shadows of slavery and Jim Crow have passed” (Celeste Ng), Sing was named one of the best books of 2017 by The New York Times, Time, The Washington Post, and Publisher's Weekly. 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 received the 2016 Strauss Living Award and a 2017 MacArthur Genius Grant, and was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2018.  

About the moderator

Mitchell S. Jackson is the winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing and the 2021 National Magazine Award in Feature Writing. Jackson’s debut novel The Residue Years received wide critical praise and won a Whiting Award and The Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence. His other honors include fellowships, grants, and awards from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Creative Capital, the Cullman Center of the New York Public Library, the Lannan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, PEN America, TED, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Center for Fiction. His writing has been featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review, Time, Esquire, and Marie Claire, as well as in The New Yorker, Harpers, The New York Times, The Paris Review, The Guardian, The Washington Post Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, and elsewhere.

Jackson’s nonfiction book Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family was published in 2019 and named a best book of the year by fifteen publications, including NPR, Time, The Paris Review, The Root, Kirkus Reviews, and Buzzfeed. His next novel John of Watts will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Jackson is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and covers race and culture as the first Black columnist in the history of Esquire. He is the John O. Whiteman Dean’s Distinguished Professor in the Department of English at ASU.

About the series

The Conversations in Craft and Content series is organized and supported by the creative writing program in the Department of English at ASU.

Photo of Jesmyn Ward by Beowulf Sheehan

Justin Petropoulos
Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, 6 p.m.
Free of charge and open to the public

COVID-19 information

Latest updates  |  Coronavirus FAQ page  |  Vaccine FAQ page