Jesmyn Ward, two-time winner of the National Book Award, is releasing a print version of a commencement speech she gave at Tulane University in 2018. Illustrated by Gina Triplett, Navigate Your Stars is a lush and moving piece of work.
The speech, now in book form, traces Ward’s own life back to her roots in a rural, black community. Ward shares the judgements she passed on, what she saw as, her apathetic family and begins to unravel the narrative of her history. Leading readers through her own struggles with what it means to be someone who does their best and still doesn’t get anywhere, Ward sets up a situation with which many will be familiar.
If you grew up anywhere in the Gen X to Millennial generation, you’ve probably been given the spiel of how important it is to go to college. Like many, Ward believed college to be the end all and be all of her life. If only she could go to college, then…she would be a success, she would have a good job, she would be happy. As many postgraduates can attest, this is not the reality that is experienced first-hand.
Ward takes the time in Navigate Your Stars to remind readers that life is about more than making a single good choice. It’s about hard work, perseverance, and doing the best you can with what you have. In the end, Ward reflects back on her previous judgements of her family and realizes how unfair they were. As people of color living within the confines of systemic poverty and institutionalized racism, she realizes they did the best they could with what they had, and really that’s all anyone can do.
A deeply poignant work, Navigate Your Stars is both comforting and rousing. Ward reveals the most vulnerable parts of herself, admitting failure and showing readers that even (most) famous writers don’t get to where they end up easily.
Navigate Your Stars by Jesmyn Ward is slated for release from Scribner in April 2020. Preorder a copy from your local independent bookstore today.
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FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.