Jesmyn Ward, an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of South Alabama, won the National Book Award in the nonfiction category for her novel Salvage the Bones. The book tells the story of a young African-American girl who lives with her father and three brothers in a small town on the Gulf Coast in Mississippi. The teenager is pregnant and her father is a heavy drinker. The story takes places as Hurricane Katrina is bearing down on the area.
Professor Ward was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and during the 2010-11 academic year she was the John and Renee Grisham Visiting Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi. Her debut novel, published in 2008, was Where the Line Bleeds.