Colorlines.com published an interview today with Jesmyn Ward, winner of this year’s National Book Award. Her second novel, “Salvage the Bones,” a family saga set in the Gulf Coast, pre-Hurricane Katrina, took home top prize. Colorlines spoke with Ward about her Southern roots and strong storytelling.

Here’s an excerpt:

What would you say to other young writers out there who have stories to tell, and who want to be telling those stories?

I would tell them, you’re going to face a lot of rejection and a lot of people are going to tell you no, but you only need one person to tell you yes, so hang in there. I mean, look at me, it happened to me. You can have a ton of people telling you no, but as long as you have one or two people tell you yes, then something is still happening and it’s still worth it.

I would tell them to be as truthful as they can be to their stories, because I think young writers of color, we’re not the norm in the literary world. I feel like the literary world feels like it’s like Highlander. “There can only be one.” And I’ve read that before, other writers of color expressing that sentiment. And that’s tough because I think those expectations hold true in regards to class, too. Like, there can only be one hard-scrabble writer, and even region, too, right. There can only be one writer of color from the South.

So I think we are facing an uphill battle where because people feel the market is limited as far as our stories go, that they don’t feel they can give all the attention to different writers of color. But I believe in the power of our stories, and I believe in the value of our stories, and I believe they have merit and they need to be told. There’s universal appeal in my story, even though it’s about a very specific time and place and set of people, and there’s universal appeal in the stories a lot of young writers of color are writing. We just have to fight to make sure people recognize that.

Keep fighting, because those stories are worth being told. If you keep fighting people will recognize that.

 

Read the full article (it’s worth it) here.