From Jesmyn Ward—the two-time National Book Award winner, youngest winner of the Library of Congress Prize for Fiction, and MacArthur Fellow—comes a haunting masterpiece, sure to be an instant classic, about an enslaved girl in the years before the Civil War.
“‘Let us descend,’ the poet now began, ‘and enter this blind world.’” —Inferno, Dante Alighieri
Let Us Descend is a reimagining of American slavery, as beautifully rendered as it is heart-wrenching. Searching, harrowing, replete with transcendent love, the novel is a journey from the rice fields of the Carolinas to the slave markets of New Orleans and into the fearsome heart of a Louisiana sugar plantation.
Annis, sold south by the white enslaver who fathered her, is the reader’s guide through this hellscape. As she struggles through the miles-long march, Annis turns inward, seeking comfort from memories of her mother and stories of her African warrior grandmother. Throughout, she opens herself to a world beyond this world, one teeming with spirits: of earth and water, of myth and history; spirits who nurture and give, and those who manipulate and take. While Ward leads readers through the descent, this, her fourth novel, is ultimately a story of rebirth and reclamation.
From one of the most singularly brilliant and beloved writers of her generation, this miracle of a novel inscribes Black American grief and joy into the very land—the rich but unforgiving forests, swamps, and rivers of the American South. Let Us Descend is Jesmyn Ward’s most magnificent novel yet, a masterwork for the ages.
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.
"Ward (Sing, Unburied, Sing) returns with the wrenching and beautifully told story of a young enslaved woman on a rice farm in the Carolinas...Throughout, Ward uses stark and striking language to describe Annis’s pain... Readers won’t be able to turn away." -- Publishers Weekly
"...What gives this volume its stature and heft among other recent novels are the power, precision, and visionary flow of Ward’s writing, the way she makes the unimaginable horror, soul-crushing drudgery, and haphazard cruelties of the distant past vivid to her readers. Every time you think this novel is taking you places you’ve been before, Ward startles you with an image, a metaphor, a rhetorical surge that makes both Annis and her travails worth your attention. And admiration. Ward may not tell you anything new about slavery, but her language is saturated with terror and enchantment." -- Kirkus Reviews
[H] Scribner Book Company / October 24, 2023
1.1" H x 8.5" L x 5.7" W (1.0 lbs) 320 pages