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

One Book, One Philadelphia Kicks Off Season with Author Jesmyn Ward

The Free Library’s flagship literacy program opened its 2019 season with an evening of conversation, reading, and performance inspired by novel Sing, Unburied, Sing

PHILADELPHIA, January 16, 2019—The Free Library of Philadelphia kicked off the 17th season of its annual One Book, One Philadelphia program on January 16 with a special evening of discussion and performance.

The evening began with opening remarks by Free Library of Philadelphia Deputy Director of Enrichment and Civic Engagement Andrew Nurkin, who recognized primary sponsors The Field Foundation, the Lenfest Foundation, PECO, and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund as well as media sponsors WHYY, WURD Radio, Keystone Outdoor Advertising, and Harmelin Media. Marie Field, Chair of One Book, One Philadelphia, also spoke.

“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,” Field said.

Featured author Jesmyn Ward, in conversation with WURD’s Sara Lomax-Reese, discussed criminal justice reform, intergenerational trauma, and other themes her work examines. The evening concluded with a performance inspired by Sing, Unburied, Sing composed and performed by students from The Curtis Institute of Music.

Sing, Unburied, Sing is a beautiful and difficult book that looks directly into the faces of the ghosts that haunt entire families, even entire communities,” Free Library President and Director Siobhan A. Reardon said about the 2019 One Book selection. “It is a moving piece on which to build a citywide conversation about finding strength despite generations of trauma.”

The evening’s event was just one of more than 120 engaging and educational One Book programs that will take place through March 13. Book discussions, children’s craft workshops, historical presentations, culinary events, panel discussions, and film screenings are just some of the wide variety of events offered during One Book, One Philadelphia’s 17th season. 

Sing, Unburied, Sing—a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award winner—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.

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. More than 3,000 copies of the books have been distributed to classrooms and nonprofits, and both Ward and Rhodes will be speaking to students as part of the programming.

The One Book website at is devoted to more resources, including downloadable discussion guides, recommended reading lists, event calendars, and more.

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About One Book, One Philadelphia

Founded in 2003 by the Free Library and the Mayor’s Office, One Book motivates tens of thousands of people to read the featured selection and participate in discussions, events, workshops, classes, and more.  All Free Library locations will have copies of Sing, Unburied, Sing—as well as companion books Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward, Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes, and Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña—for customers to borrow with a Free Library card. In addition, the Free Library will have ebook and audiobook copies available for download from its website.

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; 25,000 yearly programs and workshops; free public computers and extensive Wi-Fi, including neighborhood Hotspots; and rich special collections, including  those at Parkway Central Library and at the Rosenbach. With more than 6 million in-person visits and millions more online annually, 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