Sing, Unburied, Sing

by

Jesmyn Ward

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Sing, Unburied, Sing: Chapter 8: Jojo Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When the police pull them over, Richie (who is sitting on the floor of the car) tells Jojo: “They going to chain you.” The officer tells Jojo to get out of the car, and Richie says “I told you,” and then curls up in a ball. As the officer shouts at Jojo, all Jojo can think about is Kayla, panicking at the prospect of the officer shooting her accidentally. As soon as the officer lets them go, Richie begins talking to Jojo. He asks if Pop told Jojo about him, and Jojo says Pop did. Richie tells Jojo that he looks like Pop.
Richie’s warning to Jojo that the police officer will handcuff him probably comes from Richie’s own experiences of systemic racism at a young age, and the word “chain” being linked to police handcuffs again connects mass incarceration to slavery. Richie seems both knowledgeable and ignorant about Jojo and his family—for example, he doesn’t know if Pop has ever told Jojo about him, indicating that Richie knows nothing about Pop’s life since Parchman.
Themes
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
After two hours of driving, the group stops at a gas station. Leonie is still bent over, and Michael gives Jojo money to buy milk and charcoal for Leonie’s stomach. At first Jojo refuses, and Michael almost hits him; however, Jojo eventually agrees. When Jojo returns with the milk and charcoal, Michael sends him back once more to get a tool so Michael can smash up the charcoal into a powder. Jojo buys a gauge and a Tootsie Pop for himself. When he gets back in the car, Kayla starts shouting “Candy, candy!” and Jojo silently urges her to be quiet. Michael mixes the milk and charcoal, which lets out a strong smell of Sulphur. While the focus is on Leonie, Jojo gives Kayla the Tootsie Pop. Michael forces the mixture down Leonie’s throat and she vomits.
Once again, the motif of vomiting appears. In this case, Leonie must vomit in order to be rid of the possibly fatal dosage of meth she swallowed in order to avoid being prosecuted by the police. Just as Jojo forced Kayla to vomit up the (potentially harmful) herbal potion that Leonie fed her, Michael forces Leonie to vomit in order to remove some of the drugs from her system. In both cases, forcing a traumatic experience on someone ends up being the only way in which to save them from a more horrific fate.
Themes
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Richie asks if Leonie is Jojo’s mother, and Jojo replies “No.” Richie says that he knows he (Richie) tried to escape Parchman and that he didn’t make it, but that he doesn’t know how he died and needs to find out. Pop has never told Jojo the story of what happened after Richie escaped; Jojo knows that Pop doesn’t want to think about it. Richie tells Jojo that there are things he doesn’t know, such as the fact that home isn’t a place, but about “whether the earth open up to you.” Richie says he is looking for a “song,” and that he (Richie) is going to be part of it. Jojo asks what else he doesn’t know, and Richie says he doesn’t yet know about love or time. 
This passage emphasizes that Richie and Jojo possess different kinds of knowledge, each holding a kind of knowledge that the other seeks. Richie needs to learn what happened when he tried to escape Parchman, whereas Jojo is in need of a much more general, abstract form of wisdom about the world around him. Although both boys have had relatively little life experience, they have the potential to help one another gain the knowledge they need. 
Themes
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon