OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK • Instant New York Times Bestseller • Named one of the best books of 2023 by The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, The Boston Globe, Time, The New Yorker, and more.
“Nothing short of epic, magical, and intensely moving.” —Vogue • “A novel of triumph.” —The Washington Post • “Harrowing, immersive, and other-worldly.” —People
From “one of America’s finest living writers” (San Francisco Chronicle) and “heir apparent to Toni Morrison” (LitHub)—comes a haunting masterpiece about an enslaved girl in the years before the Civil War that’s destined to become a classic.
Let Us Descend describes 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. A journey that is as beautifully rendered as it is heart wrenching, the novel is “[t]he literary equivalent of an open wound from which poetry pours” (NPR).
Annis, sold south by the white enslaver who fathered her, is the reader’s guide. 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 Annis leads readers through the descent, hers is ultimately a story of rebirth and reclamation.
From one of the most singularly brilliant and beloved writers of her generation, this “[s]earing and lyrical…raw, transcendent, and ultimately hopeful” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) 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.
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.