We’re about a month away from kicking off the One Book, One Philadelphia 2019 season. After the official Kickoff Event, eight weeks of discussions, films, performances, and more take place across the city!
Even if you haven’t read the book, that still gives you a bit of time to catch up! And, if you don’t tackle it before the programming portion of the season starts, that shouldn’t prevent you from joining in the conversation.
Here are some notes to guide you through the season, especially as you head out to a book discussion.
- A Quick Summary: Following a family making the trip from their rural Gulf Coast farm to the Mississippi State Penitentiary, Sing, Unburied, Sing is told in three voices—13-year-old Jojo, who is learning under the wing of his grandfather what it means to be a black man in the South; his mother, Leonie, who is reeling from the grief of loss; and Richie, a ghost who connects Jojo with his grandfather's past. Part ghost story, part road novel, this groundbreaking historic National Book Award-winner is a journey through our collective history and a staggering tale of survival, connection, and unshakable love.
- The novel centers on human connection, both living and dead, and depicts complicated familial relations. Jojo’s family is multigenerational, touching on three generations, from his grandparents to his parents to his little sister. How are traditional familial roles flipped? Compare the stereotypical understanding of familial roles with ones presented in the book. Additionally, consider how these relationships prevent or encourage growth in the characters—how do they each respond to situations? What effect do their decisions have on each other? And, of course, how do each of these characters display and expect love? How do their different forms of affection, or lack thereof, play into each of their personalities and actions?
- Some of the characters can see ghosts—spiritual embodiments of individuals from the past. Why does Given appear before Leonie? Carefully observe the scenes in which he appears to her—what is she doing? What is she talking about? What connects these emotions with Given? As for Richie, why does he appear before Jojo and not Pop, the man who knew him when he was alive? What is this multigenerational and spiritual leap supposed to mean for Jojo?
- Ward makes connections to the natural word throughout the novel. From herbal medicine to animals, nature plays a powerful role throughout the story. How does the natural world affect the characters? How does it provide protection? Study each individual’s relationships with nature and how they differ. How are these connections passed down through generations? What emotions are they feeling as they interact with animals, herbs, and more?
- Think about the concept of the physical being. Consider the bodies of these characters—Mam’s illness, Jojo’s health, Pop’s strength, Kayla’s illness, and Leonie’s drug abuse. What affects them physically? And how do their physical states affect their emotional states? What does it take to sustain, or sometimes even poison, these individuals?
Now, tuck those tips away, and make sure to check out the programs that will bring Philadelphians together this One Book season from January 16 to March 13. We sure have a lot to discuss in the months ahead!