white china, november snow

The most beautiful day since the onset of winter. Though I suppose it isn’t really winter until the solstice. But it is. 9:05 P.M. 17 degrees F feels like 8.

I woke up to the clank of the shell chimes through the screen, wondering if it would ever snow again the way it did last week, When my vision adjusted, there past the branches at the back of the yard, a flurry was falling through the air to the ground.

It was 7:14. I remember looking at the clock, thinking, it’s so fine. It won’t last. Half an hour later, falling still. By quarter to 10, the sky was thick with snowflakes, blowing sideways and down, sticking to the pine boughs, sticking to the ground.

I’ve been reading Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones. I bought it a few weeks ago when Ken Foster of the Sula Foundation mentioned on FB that a book about a pit bull and Hurricane Katrina was a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction. It sat on the table in front of the fireplace night after night as I came and went, the color of the paper dust jacket so right, like ashes and grass, but more like ash. I studied the child drawing of the white dog and told my pit Pete about white China, tight with her people somewhere in Mississippi. I opened the cover to show him her black snout on the back of the flap. He watched and listened the way pitties do.

I was pleased for Jesmyn when I read that she had won and finally read the first chapter the next night. But it wasn’t until I heard her voice reading, just a few hours ago, that she took me with her for good. To be able to read aloud well is a beautiful talent.

Telling Stories: Hear 5 National Book Award Finalists, by Parul Sehgal from NPR Books. Listen to her read:

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Set in a fictional town in Mississippi 10 days before Hurricane Katrina struck, this fierce novel explores the responses of a poor black family on the verge of destruction. [. . .] The protagonist, 14-year-old Esch, is unforgettable, as canny and observant as any of Carson McCullers’ heroines and blessed with a singular gift for making language all her own.

But maybe even better, is her acceptance speech. I was stopped by her composure, by her gratitude.

Acceptance Speech, Jesmyn Ward

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