Spotlight on: Let Us Descend by Jesmyn Ward


Jesmyn Ward, photo Credit Beowulf Sheehan

In each book since my second novel, there has been a wild animal presence: a dog, a snake, and a great black vulture…I like to think they are reflections of the natural world, but I also believe they are something more, that they are the manifestations of that which does not operate by human logic. They exist in a liminal space, fierce and free and mysterious. They are both ordinary and divine, and they bear proof that there is more to this world than we know.
― Jesmyn Ward, Interview, LitHub

Let Us Descend by Jesmyn Ward

What booksellers are saying about Let Us Descend

  • This book is no mere pick of the month. This is the kind of book that comes along once in a generation. The kind of book that makes us want to open bookstores. The kind of book that will be required reading for our children and grandchildren as they go through school. The kind of book that will be filmed page by page and line by line because there is not one thing about it that needs to be changed. I can only hope that we are ready to let this book change us.This is a story that needed to be told, but couldn’t be told without a great deal of pain. For Jesmyn Ward to explore this territory and tell this story amid her own personal grief is an act of bravery. It is an act of service to American society to tell this story no matter how hard it got, and to withhold shortcuts and saviors and swooping gestures, to force us to look at the honest truth of the human toll of our history. And it is an act of love to each and every individual who we will never know but whose story this could be.
      ― Emily Liner, Friendly City Books in Columbus, MS | Buy from Friendly City Books

  • One year after her sire sold and marched her mother south, he does the same to enslaved teen Annis. In the depths of Louisiana bound in rope and destitution, Annis must use the extensive knowledge of combat and foraging imparted to her by her mother, and by her warrior grandmother before her, to transcend her squalor and claim her humanity. Let Us Descend is an often-painful story with an excellent lead character whose story is explicitly her own to wrangle. Largely, it is about one family’s generational fight so that each descendant may have a better life than the last.
      ― Sam Edge from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, NC | Buy from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews

  • Let Us Descend is a novel of American slavery loosely based on Dante’s Inferno. Through many circles of hell you are led on a heart-wrenchingly powerful journey. Annis struggles through the soul-searching harrowing hellish march from the Carolinas to Lousiana, in shackles. She speaks to her mother and her african warrior grandmother, and mystical spirits of good and bad. These memories and spirits comfort and strengthen her on this journey. She finds love and loses love, and this love becomes her measure of love. All very strong women at every turn. This a powerfully magnificent novel with an absolute break-neck breath-taking end.
      ― Amy Loewy from Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans, LA | Buy from Garden District Bookshop

  • A visceral and haunting gut-punch of a novel. Annis’s journey through the hell of the American South’s antebellum era is harrowing but her spirit and tenacity will keep you turning the page with bated breath. The gorgeous writing, and magical realism of Let Us Descend will stay with you long after you finish.
      ― Chelsea Bauer from Union Ave Books in Knoxville, TN | Buy from Union Ave Books

About Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward received her MFA from the University of Michigan and has received the MacArthur Genius Grant, a Stegner Fellowship, a John and Renee Grisham Writers Residency, the Strauss Living Prize, and the 2022 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. She is the historic winner—first woman and first Black American—of two National Book Awards for Fiction for Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017) and Salvage the Bones (2011). She is also the author of the novel Where the Line Bleeds and the memoir Men We Reaped, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize and the Media for a Just Society Award. She is currently a professor of creative writing at Tulane University and lives in Mississippi.

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