For Release: Immediately
Department of External Affairs
Free Library of Philadelphia
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710
FAX (215) 567-7850
Contact: Communications and Development
For Release: Immediately
Contact: Communications and Development

Announcing the 2019 One Book, One Philadelphia Selection: "Sing, Unburied, Sing" by Jesmyn Ward

Marking its 17th year, One Book highlights a haunting exploration of race, poverty, incarceration, and generational trauma—and bonds of love and the promise of healing

PHILADELPHIA, October 16, 2018—The Free Library of Philadelphia and the Mayor’s Office today announced the selection of Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward—a staggering road-trip tale of loss and survival in past and current-day Mississippi—as the 2019 One Book, One Philadelphia featured reading selection. Now marking its 17th season, this acclaimed literacy and civic-dialogue initiative encourages the entire greater Philadelphia region to come together through reading and discussing the same book. The announcement marks the beginning of the reading period, during which Philadelphians are invited to delve into the featured selection before the official program period commences in January.

Running from January 16 through March 13, 2019, One Book, One Philadelphia’s innovative and wide-ranging programs will include more than 100 related events inspired by the featured selection, including panel discussions, film screenings, musical performances, and more—at Free Library locations and other destinations throughout the city. One Book will partner with multiple arts organizations, nonprofits, and universities to present programs that will kick off on January 16, 2018, with a special author event featuring Jesmyn Ward.

Haunting and haunted, Sing, Unburied, Sing follows one family as they make the fraught trip from their Gulf Coast town to the Mississippi State Penitentiary.Ward’s novel pays witness to the strength of emotional bonds, the violent pull of our collective history, and the meaning of healing. The online magazine Slate declared that Sing, Unburied, Sing establishes Ward as “the sharpest voice in the contemporary conversation around the past’s relationship to the present.”

Jesmyn Ward is the first woman and first African American author to receive two National Book Awards—in 2011 for Salvage the Bones, set in the chaos and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and in 2017 for Sing, Unburied, Sing. Men We Reaped—Ward’s memoir about the loss of five young men in her life and an exploration of her community’s history of racism and economic struggle—is the 2019 One Book adult companion title. Young readers will join the conversation with youth companion titles Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes and Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña.

One Book, One Philadelphia Chair Marie Field commented, “With Jesmyn Ward’s searing novel Sing, Unburied, Sing at the heart of One Book’s 2019 reading and programming experience, Philadelphians will be moved toward a deeper, more empathetic understanding of the corrosive, tragic impact of racism, social injustice, and poverty on the lives of individuals, families, and communities. As with all great literature, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a life altering book.”

Free Library President and Director Siobhan A. Reardon said of Sing, Unburied, Sing: “In this unprecedented and unique novel Jesmyn Ward employs a transfixing sense of the supernatural to tell a powerful true-to-life tale. While set in the rural South and recent past, its concerns and messages resonate with every facet of contemporary America. We are delighted to shine a light on and share Sing, Unburied, Sing to bring the city together, raise awareness of our society’s challenges and promise, and foster a love of reading and learning in people of all ages and walks of life.”

Founded in 2003 by the Free Library and the Mayor’s Office, One Book, One Philadelphia motivates tens of thousands of people annually to read a featured selection and participate in related discussions, events, workshops, classes, and more. The 2019 One Book program is endowed by The Joseph and Marie Field Fund and sponsored by The Field Foundation. Media sponsors include WHYY, WURD, and Harmelin Media. Sponsors also include the Lenfest Foundation, PECO, and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

Along with curriculum materials, One Book will distribute thousands of copies of Sing, Unburied, Sing and Ghost Boys to middle and high school students throughout the Philadelphia School District. All Free Library locations will have copies of Sing, Unburied, Sing—as well as Men We Reaped, Ghost Boys, and Last Stop on Market Street—for customers to borrow with a Free Library card. In addition, the Free Library will have ebook copies and downloadable audiobooks available for checkout from its website.  

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About the Free Library of Philadelphia

The Free Library of Philadelphia system, with 54 locations and The Rosenbach, advances literacy, guides learning, and inspires curiosity with millions of digital and physical materials; 28,000 yearly programs and workshops; free public computers and extensive Wi-Fi, including neighborhood Hotspots; and rich special collections, including those at the Parkway Central Library and at The Rosenbach. With more than 10 million visits annually—5 million in-person, 5 million online—the Free Library and The Rosenbach are among the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia and boast a worldwide impact.


Department of External Affairs, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710, FAX (215) 567-7850