Sing, Unburied, Sing


Jesmyn Ward

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Sing, Unburied, Sing Characters


Jojo is the main character in the novel, which begins on his thirteenth birthday. The biracial son of Leonie and Michael, Jojo is unusually serious and mature for his age, partly because Leonie’s irresponsibility… read analysis of Jojo

Pop (River)

Pop is Jojo’s maternal grandfather, although he was more present in Jojo’s life than either of his real parents and, when the novel begins, is Jojo’s only active parent. Pop is brave, strong, intelligent… read analysis of Pop (River)


Mam is Jojo’s maternal grandmother. Like many women in her family, Mam has healing powers, psychic foresight, and the gift of being able to communicate with the spirits of dead people. She tries to… read analysis of Mam

Kayla (Michaela)

Kayla is Jojo’s three-year-old sister. Leonie named her Michaela after Michael, but Leonie remains the only member of the family who calls her daughter by her full name. Kayla was born after Michael… read analysis of Kayla (Michaela)


Leonie is Jojo and Kayla’s mother. She is a troubled character, whose difficulties stem from a mix of trauma, structural oppression, and her own flaws. Jojo views Leonie as a neglectful, selfish, and incomprehensible… read analysis of Leonie
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Michael is the father of Jojo and Kayla. He is white, and comes from a racist family. However, Michael himself is not racist, and after Michael’s cousin murders Given he begins a relationship with… read analysis of Michael


Given is Leonie’s older brother, the only son of Pop and Mam. As a senior in high school, Given was a dedicated football player, close with both his white and black teammates. Ignoring… read analysis of Given

Big Joseph

Big Joseph is Michael’s father, and Jojo is named after him. He is a cruel man and an ardent racist. He helps to cover up Given’s murder, pretending that Michael’s cousin killed Given… read analysis of Big Joseph


Richie is a 12-year-old boy who was imprisoned in Parchman with Pop. Richie had nine siblings and would steal food to feed them, which is why he was sent to prison. Small and weak… read analysis of Richie


Stag is Pop’s brother. As a kid, Stag was a troublemaker, and Pop believes this is because Stag felt empty inside. One day Stag got in a fight with some white men, which ended… read analysis of Stag


Misty is Leonie’s friend who drives with her to Parchman to pick up Michael. The two women use drugs together, and seem bound mostly by their addiction, though Leonie thinks of Misty as… read analysis of Misty
Minor Characters
Maggie is Michael’s mother. She is less racist than her husband and seems somewhat open to having a relationship with Leonie and her grandchildren, but ultimately does not stand up to Big Joseph.
Michael’s Cousin
Michael’s cousin is a man who, in his early thirties, made a bet while hunting with Given. When Michael’s cousin lost the bet, he shot Given in a fit of racist rage. He was sent to Parchman for only three years after claiming the murder was a hunting accident.
Kinnie Wagner
Kinnie Wagner is a notorious white criminal who is in charge of the dogs at Parchman. He recruits Pop to help him with the dogs.
Hogjaw is an enormous white man who was at Parchman during Pop’s time there.
Carlotta is a white woman who makes crystal meth with her husband, Fred. Jojo witnesses her viciously beat her infant son with a baseball bat.
Fred is Carlotta’s husband. He cooks meth and gives it to Misty and Leonie to transport on their journey.
Al is Michael’s lawyer. He is friendly and kind, but is seemingly a meth addict. He gets high with Misty and Leonie and possibly has sex with them.
Police Officer
The police officer stops Jojo’s family after they pick up Michael from Parchman. He treats them with suspicion and brutality, handcuffing Jojo even though he is only thirteen.
The Sunshine Woman
The Sunshine Woman is a prostitute who would come to work at Parchman, so named because she would always wear yellow. She once told Pop about a lynching that happened in the town near Parchman.
Maman Brigitte
Maman Brigitte is a mystère (a kind of intermediary spirit in some voodoo practices) known as the “Mother of the Dead.” Mam asks to be possessed by her shortly before her death.
Blue is an inmate in Parchman who Pop describes as being “not right in the head.” He and Richie escape together, but are caught by the guards, who skin Blue alive.
Bishop is Misty’s boyfriend. He does not appear in the narrative directly, though we learn that he is black and is also imprisoned at Parchman.