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Navigate Your Stars

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  1,895 ratings  ·  308 reviews
A revelatory, uplifting, and gorgeously illustrated meditation on dedication, hard work, and the power of perseverance from the beloved, New York Times bestselling, and two-time National Book Award–winning Jesmyn Ward.

For Tulane University’s 2018 commencement, Jesmyn Ward delivered a stirring speech about the value of hard work and the importance of respect for oneself and
Hardcover, 64 pages
Published April 7th 2020 by Scribner
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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 ·  1,895 ratings  ·  308 reviews

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Apr 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Jesmyn Ward has written a powerful commencement speech, now in book form, that teaches the reader about the importance of education, not just in the formal classroom sense but also the education that life experiences teach you. Ward uses her unique backstory of coming from Mississippi and the limits that were placed on her black family members, how education was not enough, and how working was crucial to her current success. This speech is for those who don't get the lucky breaks. If you need in ...more
Jun 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Having read Ward's two most recent novel, I was curious to read this commencement speech she delivered in 2018 at Tulane University. Just like in her novels, the honesty and raw beauty of her words are moving. Her message is vital for those about to enter the 'real' world; but just as important for us who are already there but may need to be inspired again. Most don't find success on the fast track. Hard work, perseverance, and even hardship will help us achieve our goals.

I feel like I know Jesm
Julie Ehlers
Feb 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Navigate Your Stars is one of those books that comes out around graduation time; it is itself a commencement speech the author delivered in 2018 at Tulane. A lot of these sorts of speeches are expanded upon for the book version, but this one doesn't seem to be—it is a very small amount of text, spread out over a pretty small amount of pages. The message is also a fairly basic one: We all find ourselves in varied circumstances in life and constantly have to make choices; we should try to follow o ...more
Never Without a Book
Why did I get super emotional reading this? I don't know! No matter how long or short her books are, Ward just has a way with words. The art work in this book is so beautiful. ...more
robin friedman
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Navigate Your Stars

Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award in 2011 for her second novel, "Salvage the Bones". In 2017, Ward received a MacArthur "genius" grant together with her second National Book Award for her third novel "Sing, Unburied, Sing". Ward delivered the commencement address at Tulane University, where she is a professor of creative writing, in 2018. Her speech has been published in this beautiful short book, "Navigate your Stars" with illustrations by the Philadelphia artist, Gina
Apr 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I needed this beautiful reminder.
There's a new beginning in every moment.

Keep on keeping on.
Okay, perhaps because I am hearing this in her own voice, or perhaps it's just the mood I'm in, but this speech made me tear up. I didn't even have to look at illustrations. I think this is a speech that I should listen to when I need encouragement, or when I get into a rut and need a push to keep on going. This book would probably be a great gift for a high school graduate, but I think that its inspirational message could work for any of us getting ready to start something new. This is the firs ...more
Jesmyn Ward gave this beautiful, compassionate, inspirational speech for the first time as a commencement address at Tulane University in 2018. Her words were made available for other readers and listeners in her book, Navigate Your Stars. This was a beautiful listen.
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Beautiful little book 🥰
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebooks, 2020-releases
wow did i read this at the perfect time
Francisca Viegas
This was pretty generic advice on the importance of perseverance and hard work. Good, but not necessarily unique.
Dec 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
“What would I do with this love of words that would not leave me?”

Short and sweet but definitely moving. This speech speaks to the power of not just education but of passion and a desire for more when it comes to realizing your dreams, those things you wished upon stars. They do not have to be so distant, so far-removed from you. Ward speaks about the almost magical power of perseverance in the face of seemingly overwhelming circumstances. It is so easy to give up, to accept the cards we’ve been
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A very nice brief book, a synopsis to Men We Reaped. Concise, she succinctly talks autobiographically about her own story, her “fog of grief”. Ward’s struggles and defeating and triumphant memories have always touched me. Now having read 4 books, I cannot wait until this Tulane professor’s new one on New Orlean’s historic slave trade finishes and publishes. I love her love of reading and writing, and her steel, indomitable will! In the end, I cried walking alongside her story. Even though I had ...more
Apr 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-reads
The illustrations throughout this are gorgeous. In it, Ward shares valuable wisdom learned from her life. She reminds us that we should persist and persevere as we follow our dreams, not to give up if something doesn't come easily, and to see the value in the way others have lived their lives. Moving words + beautiful imagery = fantastic short work. ...more
Apr 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Sweet, though not particularly original. In her defense, what can one say that is new in a commencement address? The take home seems to be: college is not the end of the road for learning and hard work, but only the beginning. One would hope that any college graduate would already get this, but just in case....

The illustrations are wonderful and apropos. A brief and easy read from one of the best authors writing today.
May 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Super quick read because it's a graduation speech; the illustrations are lovely and the words are powerful. ...more
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
Short and sweet, and incredibly powerful and moving. Jesmyn Ward is such a talented and thoughtful writer, and that comes across even in a 20-minute audiobook.
4.5 stars
Beautiful. I cried.

And now I really need to pick up some of Ward's books. Her writing is so beautiful, even (or perhaps especially) in a commencement speech on audio!
Anna Morgenstern
Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
I found that too banal and a bit cliché.
Jelly Washington
Jan 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
Uplifting and quick. A good listen when you just feel like the everything is taking off and leaving you behind.
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
Lovely, soul-stirring, and challenging in the best way. In this adapted commencement address, Ward reaches deeper than platitudes and exposes the folly of her own previously-held assumptions about what keeps others from achieving more in life. It is impossible to read and not to recognize oneself in some of those prejudices, but that conviction is quickly followed by inspiration to be more gracious when looking outward and more adaptable when charting one's own paths.

Rich in texture and bold in
Sidik Fofana
Jun 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
SIX WORD REVIEW: Getting knocked down, getting back up.
Roger DeBlanck
Nov 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
The beauty of this little gem of a book resonates, of course, from the sage words of Ward’s commencement speech at Tulane University, but the artwork of Gina Triplett lends more immediacy to Ward’s words with the stunning beauty Triplett brings to each page with her vivid images and lovely contrast of pastel colors.

Anyone who has read Ward’s award-winning novels Salvage the Bones and Sing, Unburied, Sing must also read this speech because it is, of course, Ward sharing her story of struggle and
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, short-works
A speech given by Jesmyn Ward at Tulane University’s 2018 Commencement, it is now accompanied by Gina Triplett’s bold and vivid illustrations. This is a slender piece, as it is simply a speech, but it delivers a powerful message. Drawing upon her own life, Jesmyn relates a modern-day “road less traveled” when it comes to making choices and holding fast to your dreams. Although I’m not a fan of Robert Frost (hold your gasps), I am a fan of Ward’s honest reflection of her feelings regarding educat ...more
Maridith Geuder
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this meditation on persistence, hard work, and the rewards of following your dreams. Every sentence is something to savor. Every illustration is breathtaking. I am inspired by words such as these: “My years in college and afterward taught me this: success is not the result of making one good choice, of taking one step. Real success requires step, after step, after step, after step. It requires choice after choice, it demands lifelong education and pa ...more
Megan Tristao
My new go-to gift for graduates! It gave me goosebumps. And the print version is gorgeously illustrated. (I listened to the audio while I looked at the book so Jesmyn could "read to me." Yes, it is one of the better ideas I've had in my whole life.) ...more
"I didn’t understand that the legacy of history and intergenerational poverty and trauma meant that most of them asked themselves these questions when they were teenagers: Should I continue to go to school, or should I work? Should I buy propane and wood, or should I freeze? Should I eat, or should I starve?
"I didn’t understand that writing a different story for myself meant that I had to not only make wise choices—plural—but have the gift of luck and better circumstances as well."

Navigate Your
Sep 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Tommy June asked me the other day why we don’t ever go thrifting. I was incredulous, “What do you think going to Houseworks and Crowded Closet is? You’ve been thrifting your whole life!”⁣
“I mean clothes thrifting. Not looking for little wine glasses or tiny vases for zinnias.”⁣
“Oh. Okay. Yes. Well, I also look for plant containers and paper supplies, you know.”⁣
“Yes, I know.” ⁣

The point is, I read this beautiful commencement speech written by Jesmyn Ward while sitting in a parking lot waiting f
Kim Villines Martin
Aug 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Another book lover was kind enough to pass along an uncorrected proof for Navigate Your Stars, a wonderful commencement address turned book. Although I vowed to pass it along to others, I have kept it close for a while now. As luck would have it, I was going through a difficult time and Ward's words were a comfort and inspiration. I wish that I could share my favorite quotes but you are not to do this with an uncorrected proof. So, you will have to pick up a copy for yourself and read about the ...more
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Jesmyn Ward is the author of Where the Line Bleeds, Salvage the Bones, and Men We Reaped. She is a former Stegner Fellow (Stanford University) and Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi. She is an associate professor of Creative Writing at Tulane University.

Her work has appeared in BOMB, A Public Space and The Oxford American.

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“Success is not the result of making one good choice, of taking one step. Real success requires step, after step, after step, after step. It requires choice after choice, it demands life-long education and passion and commitment and persistence and hunger and patience.” 2 likes
“I didn't understand that writing a different story for myself meant that I had to not only make wise choices - plural - but have the gift of luck and better circumstances as well.” 0 likes
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