12/22/2011 12:58 pm ET | Updated Dec 23, 2011

National Book Award Winner Jesmyn Ward On Katrina: We Do Not Live In A Post-Racial America

Jesmyn Ward discussed her acclaimed novel, "Salvage the Bones," while standing in an open field.

"There were houses here, lots of houses there," she points at the barren landscape surrounding her. These houses no longer exist because they were wiped out by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The event inspired Ward to write her National Book Award-winning work, "Salvage the Bones," a lyrical novel that employs the vernacular of the black working class. Ward was one of two black women to win the award this year.

"It's semi-autobiographical because I set it in a fictional town on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but it's modeled after my hometown," Ward says.

In this video, she details the aftermath of the hurricane that she survived, and the impact of race on the aftermath, including a segregated graveyard where many of her family members are buried.

Believing that our country should not be labeled as "post-racial," she hopes her writing will shed light on the turmoils and strength of Katrina victims.

"I chose the word 'salvage' [in the title] because it's close to the word 'savage,' which means that you fight and you survive," Ward says.