Jesmyn Ward

Beowulf Sheehan

Jesmyn Ward

Past Event: Wednesday, January 17, 2018

At Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

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Literary Arts

Sponsored by BNY Wealth Management and Elliott Bay Book Company

Widely regarded as one of the most important American authors writing today, Jesmyn Ward is the two-time National Book Award winner for Salvage the Bones and her latest, Sing, Unburied, Sing.

Great for those interested in Southern literature, African American history, equity, and racial justice, Jesmyn Ward has been called “fearless and toughly lyrical” by the Library Journal. Her novel Salvage the Bones, the story of four motherless children trying to protect their home in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, won the 2011 National Book Award for Fiction. Her unflinching portrayals of young black men and women struggling to thrive in a South ravaged by poverty and natural disaster have been praised for their “graphic clarity” by the Boston Globe, and for their “hugeness of heart” by O, The Oprah Magazine.

Ward’s follow-up to Salvage was Men We Reaped, a memoir that confronts the five years of Ward’s life in which she lost five young men—to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that follows people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Lauded by Kirkus as a “modern rejoinder to Black Like Me [and] Beloved,” Men We Reaped is a homage to Ward’s past, her ghosts, and the haunted yet hopeful place she still calls home. A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography, it was named one of the Best Books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, NPR, Kirkus, New York Magazine, and TIME magazine.

Ward is also the editor of the critically acclaimed anthology The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, which NPR listed as one of the Best Books of 2016. Taking James Baldwin’s 1963 pivotal examination of race in America, The Fire Next Time, is a jumping-off point. The groundbreaking collection features essays and poems about race from the most important voices of Ward’s generation and our time—from Edwidge Danticat, Natasha Trethewey, and Isabel Wilkerson, to Mitchell S. Jackson, Kiese Laymon, and Claudia Rankine.

In her latest novel Sing, Unburied, Sing, winner of the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction, Ward returns to Mississippi and the themes of her earlier work. Confronting the realities of life in the rural South, Ward gives us a road map through Mississippi’s past and present that explores the bonds of family as tested by racism and poverty. Her work is all set on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi where Ward grew up, and each new publication makes her a fitting heir to the rich literary tradition of the American South.

Jesmyn Ward received her M.F.A. 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 from 2008-2010, and served as the Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi during the following year. Ward currently teaches creative writing at Tulane University in New Orleans. In addition to the 2011 National Book Award, Salvage the Bones won the American Library Association’s Alex Award. Ward received the Virginia Commonwealth University Cabell First Novelist Award for Where the Line Bleeds, which was also a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Where the Line Bleeds was also an Essence Magazine Book Club Selection, and was honored by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

Selected Works:

Where the Line Bleeds (2008)
Salvage the Bones (2011)
Men We Reaped (2013)
The Fire This Time (2016)
Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017)

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Know Before You Go


Jesmyn Ward will discuss her work including her latest book, Sing, Unburied, Sing. The event will be followed by a Q&A moderated by SAL Executive Director, Ruth Dickey.



Elliott Bay Book Company will have copies of Sing, Unburied, Sing and other titles by Ward available for purchase at their table in the lobby.



There will be no book-signing for this event.


Subscriber Notebooks

Are you a SAL subscriber? Don’t forget to pick up your complimentary 30th Anniversary notebook to use throughout the season for ideas, notes, quotes, and musings from SAL events and more. Pick up your notebook from the SAL info table in the lobby.


Grand Patron & Patron Reception from 6:30–7:15 on the Promenade!

Grand Patron and Patron ticket holders, join us for a chance to meet Jesmyn Ward at the pre-event reception on the Promenade. Ushers will direct you upon arrival. The reception will take place from 6:30–7:15.


Student Ticket Holders

Don’t forget to head to the special door marked “Student” for entry into the auditorium. A valid student ID is required for admission into the event.


Don’t see your question answered here? Click here to visit our FAQ page.

Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, the largest event space at Benaroya Hall. 

Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound Highway 99 (Aurora Avenue)
    Take the Seneca Street exit and move into the left lane. Turn left onto First Avenue and proceed one block. Take the next right (at the Hammering Man sculpture) onto University Street. Continue up the hill two blocks to Third Avenue. Turn left onto Third Avenue. Continue to the next block and turn left onto Union Street. Make the next left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Southbound Highway 99 (Aurora Avenue)
    Take the Denny Way/Downtown exit. Keep right and cross over Denny Way onto Wall Street. Proceed approximately five blocks and turn left onto Second Avenue. Continue south on Second Avenue approximately eight blocks. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Bus
Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by bus and light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).

The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. Blink charging stations are available for electric vehicles. The event rate is $16.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.


All of our venues have accessible seating and listening devices available. Please contact us at or 206.621.2230 x10 for more details and to let us know you’re coming so we can better accommodate your needs.