Jesmyn Ward, the voice of southern people
Jesmyn Ward, thirty-five, was born in DeLisle in the state of Mississippi, and now lives in Alabama. Coming from a large family, she was the first of the siblings to receive a scholarship for college. Today, she teaches creative writing at Tulane University, in New Orleans.
« Ligne de Fracture » (note: Where the Line Bleeds-2008, translated into French in 2014, editions Belfond)) is her first novel. The second, Salvage The Bones, National Book Award in 2011, was published by Belfond (2012) and by 10/18 (2013). Her interest « for people who have been neglected in American literature: poor, black, and Southern people. « is celebrated in her novels.
Jesmyn Ward, you have been one of the main guests of « Festival America » in Paris last September. What have you appreciated in this festival? What have you learnt from your French readers ?
I appreciated the sense of celebration in the festival: there was a sense that writing and writers are important. I’ve learned that my French readers are very passionate about literature, and that they ask insightful, important questions about the work.
You are often referred to as beeing part of the new generation of « South Literature ». Do you agree with the term « South Literature »? What does it mean to you ?
I accept that I am a Southern writer, and that what I write is seen as Southern Literature. To me, it means that I write about an area of the United States that is rich with a certain culture and harshness and beauty. And I celebrate that in my work. But I hope that readers and critics can see that at the same time that my work is Southern, it’s also about human beings, and there are universal themes in my work.
What is your next challenge? Are you writing on a new novel?
I am writing a new novel. My novel is about a family in the South; it follows an adolescent boy and his mother as they go on a journey to retrieve the father in the family. It’s about growing up, it’s about loyalty and love and failure. It’sturning out well.
By Claire Renée Mendy.