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An American marriage : a novel
Physical Description:
317 pages ; 21 cm.
General Note:
A cloth bag containing 10 copies of the title and a folder with miscellaneous notes, discussion questions, biographical information, and reading lists to assist book group discussion leaders.

Book includes reading group guide.
Reading Level:
HL 770 L Lexile
Geographic Term:
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy, the living embodiment of the New South, are settling into the routine of their life together when Roy is sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit. An insightful look into the lives of people who are bound and separated by forces beyond their control --


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Book club kit KT FICTION JON 1 1

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"A moving portrayal of the effects of a wrongful conviction on a young African-American couple." --Barack Obama

"Haunting . . . Beautifully written." -- The New York Times Book Review

"Brilliant and heartbreaking . . . Unforgettable." -- USA Today

"A tense and timely love story . . . Packed with brave questions about race and class." -- People

"Compelling." -- The Washington Post

"Deeply moving . . . thought-provoking." --Bill Gates

"Epic . . . Transcendent . . . Triumphant." -- Elle

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn't commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy's time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy's conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward--with hope and pain--into the future.

Author Notes

Tayari Jones was born on November 30, 1970 in Atlanta Georgia. She attended Spelman College, University of Iowa, and the University of Georgia. She later attended Arizonia State University to earn her MFA. She went on to teach creative writing at the University of Illinois and George Washington University.

Her first novel, Leaving Atlanta, was written in 2002 while she was a graduate student at Arizonia State University. It was about the Atlanta Child Murders of 1979-1981.Her other title's include: The Untelling, Silver Sparrow, and An American Marriage. She has been awarded the Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction, the Lillian Smith Book Award, and the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

Jones (Silver Sparrow) lays bare the devastating effects of wrongful imprisonment in this piercing tale of an unspooling marriage. Roy, an ambitious corporate executive, and Celestial, a talented artist and the daughter of a self-made millionaire, struggle to maintain their fledgling union when Roy is sentenced to 12 years in prison on a rape charge he is adamant is false. Before Roy's arrest, the narrative toggles between his and Celestial's perspectives; it takes an epistolary form during his imprisonment that affectingly depicts their heartbreaking descent into anger, confusion, and loneliness. When Roy is proven innocent and released seven years early, another narrator is introduced: Andre, Celestial's lifelong best friend who has become very close to her while Roy has been away. Jones maintains a brisk pace that injects real suspense into the principal characters' choices around fidelity, which are all fraught with guilt and suspicion, admirably refraining from tipping her hand toward one character's perspective. The dialogue-especially the letters between Roy and Celestial-are sometimes too heavily weighted by exposition, and the language slides toward melodrama. But the central conflict is masterfully executed: Jones uses her love triangle to explore simmering class tensions and reverberating racial injustice in the contemporary South, while also delivering a satisfying romantic drama. Agent: Jane Dystel, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Married for just over a year, Roy and Celestial are still navigating their new dynamic as husband and wife. Then their lives are forever altered when they travel to Roy's small Louisiana hometown for a visit, and Roy is falsely accused of a harrowing crime and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The strain on their relationship is intense during Roy's incarceration, especially once Celestial's career takes off while he struggles with loss and feelings of abandonment. Nearly halfway through Roy's sentence, his conviction is vacated. In the aftermath of his unexpected release, the couple must confront difficult questions about the choices they've made as well as the expectations of others. For Celestial, it means reconciling the relationship with her husband with that of a longtime friend turned lover. Roy, on the other hand, faces the complexities of a life he no longer recognizes. Jones (Silver Sparrow, 2011) crafts an affecting tale that explores marriage, family, regret, and other feelings made all the more resonant by her well-drawn characters and their intricate conflicts of heart and mind.--Strauss, Leah Copyright 2017 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

TIME PIECES: A Dublin Memoir, by John Banville. (Knopf, $26.95.) The Booker Prize-winning novelist wanders Ireland's capital city, recalling people and places that still live in his memory. Scattered throughout are suitably atmospheric photographs by Paul Joyce. THE REAL LIFE OF THE PARTHENON, by Patricia Vigderman. (Mad Creek/Ohio State University Press, paper, $21.95.) An American scholar visits classic sites of the ancient world in a book that's part travelogue, part memoir and part musing on our complex, contested cultural heritage. SMOKETOWN: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance, by Mark Whitaker. (Simon & Schuster, $30.) Whitaker recounts the untold history of Pittsburgh's role as a mecca for African-Americans in the mid-20th century - from figures like Billy Strayhorn and August Wilson to the local newspaper, The Courier, which covered it all. FEEL FREE: Essays, byZadie Smith. (Penguin, $28.) Deftly roving from literature and philosophy to art, pop music and film, Smith's incisive new collection showcases her exuberance and range while making a cohesive argument for social and aesthetic freedom. A GIRL IN EXILE: Requiem for Linda B., by Ismail Kadare. Translated by John Hodgson. (Counterpoint, $25.) The famed Albanian writer, and perpetual Nobel Prize contender, produces a novel that grapples with the supernatural in a story set against a backdrop of interrogation, exile and thwarted lives. AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE, by Tayari Jones. (Algonquin, $26.95.) Roy and Celestial are a young black couple in Atlanta "on the come up," as he puts it, when he's convicted of a rape he did not commit and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The unfairness of the years stolen from this couple by a great cosmic error forms the novel's slow burn. MONSTER PORTRAITS, by Del and Sofia Samatar. (Rose Metal, paper, $14.95.) Del and Sofia Samatar are brother and sister, and their beautiful new book, which braids Del's art and Sofia's text, explores monstrosity and evil while inviting a discussion about race and diaspora. THE NIGHT DIARY, by Veera Hiranandani. (Dial, $16.99; ages 8 to 12.) A 12-year-old refugee and her family make their way to India's border during the bloody events of Partition in 1947. THE HEART AND MIND OF FRANCES PAULEY, by April Stevens. (Schwartz & Wade, $16.99; ages 8 to 12.) This understated middle grade debut features a dreamy 11-year-old who spends hours among the rocks in her backyard. What the book lacks in plot, it more than makes up in observation, mood and full-on feeling. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web:

Guardian Review

The novelist on a 1940s bestseller that deserves wider attention and how the ancient Greeks have inspired her work The book I am currently reading Brother by David Chariandy. I am only halfway through and I am stunned by the strength and beauty of his words. The book that changed my life I could divide my life into before and after Beloved by Toni Morrison. I was about 19 when I read it. I hate to use such a chilly word to describe an experience that was spiritual, emotional and intellectual, but Beloved made me feel contextualised. That is the only way I can explain it. The book that is most underrated I am dumbfounded as to why The Street by Ann Petry is not more widely read. (I am an evangelist on this matter.) Published in the 1940s, it was the first bestseller by a black American woman - and sold more than 1m copies. It was what we would now call a literary suspense novel. The plot twists are book club gold, but it also raises very challenging questions about race and motherhood. I love to unwind with a good mystery. I like old-fashioned procedurals - no serial killers, please! The book that influenced me Homer's Odyssey . When I was in primary school I was assigned an independent curriculum that centred around children's versions of the classics. I imprinted on those stories like a lost baby duck. As soon as I was old enough, I devoured The Odyssey and The Iliad . (The Emily Wilson translation of The Odyssey is breathtaking. Such an accomplishment!) Every book I have written harks back to the Greeks, especially An American Marriage . My heroine, Celestial, is Penelope, only modern, independent and famous for her art. The last book that made me cry Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. The last book that made me laugh Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. The book I'm ashamed not to have read Shame is not allowed in my library! When the time is right, I will read all the books I am meant to read. My earliest reading memory When I was about six, I read Why Mosquitos Buzz in People's Ears . The illustrations were gorgeous, but it wasn't a picture book. (I was really eager to read books "all by myself" that had high word-to-art ratios). I pretended to be a teacher and read it aloud to my dolls. My comfort reading I love to unwind with a good mystery. Tana French and Louise Penny are my favourites. I like old-fashioned procedurals - no serial killers, please! Let's solve the crime and find out that it was motivated by love or money, rather than stone-cold depravity. The best mysteries leave me feeling that a certain order has been restored. The book I give as a gift Sometimes I buy an assortment of children's books and give them to the adults in my life. Everyone seems to love Little Sweet Potato by Amy Beth Bloom. Islandborn by Junot Díaz is also pretty popular.

Kirkus Review

A look at the personal toll of the criminal justice system from the author of Silver Sparrow (2011) and The Untelling (2005).Roy has done everything right. Growing up in a working-class family in Louisiana, he took advantage of all the help he could get and earned a scholarship to Morehouse College. By the time he marries Spelman alum Celestial, she's an up-and-coming artist. After a year of marriage, they're thinking about buying a bigger house and starting a family. Then, on a visit back home, Roy is arrested for a crime he did not commit. Jones begins with chapters written from the points of view of her main characters. When Roy goes to prison, it becomes a novel in letters. The epistolary style makes perfect sense. Roy is incarcerated in Louisiana, Celestial is in Atlanta, and Jones' formal choice underscores their separation. Once Roy is released, the narrative resumes a rotating first person, but there's a new voice, that of Andre, once Celestial's best friend and now something more. This novel is peopled by vividly realized, individual characters and driven by interpersonal drama, but it is also very much about being black in contemporary America. Roy is arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned in Louisiana, the state with the highest per-capita rate of incarceration in the United States, and where the ratio of black to white prisoners is 4 to 1. There's a heartbreaking scene in which Celestial's uncleRoy's attorneyencourages her to forget everything she knows about presenting herself while she speaks in her husband's defense. "Now is not the time to be articulate. Now is the time to give it up. No filter, all heart." After a lifetime of being encouraged to be "well spoken," Celestial finds that she sounds false trying to speak unguardedly. "As I took my seatnot even the black lady juror would look at me." This is, at its heart, a love story, but a love story warped by racial injustice. And, in it, Jones suggests that racial injustice haunts the African-American story.Subtle, well-crafted, and powerful. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

Shoved onto the asphalt by police, lying "parallel like burial plots" next to her husband Roy in a motel parking lot, Celestial recalls her wedding proclamation: "What God has brought together, let no man tear asunder." But an American marriage--especially if a black man is involved-can easily be ruptured by institutionalized racism. Ambitious and charming, Roy did every-thing right, getting out of small-town Louisiana, earning a Morehouse College degree, marrying privileged city girl Celestial, and settling into Atlanta society. His upward mobility is violently halted during a visit home when he's unjustly convicted of rape. Cleaved from each other, Roy survives prison with the protection of his cell mate (whose identity is a shocking coincidence), while Celestial relies on her supportive parents and childhood best friend Andre. Eisa Davis is ideally cast as Celestial, moving easily between proud and bowed, determined and desperate. Sean Crisden unfortunately disappoints, voicing both Roy and Andre with limited distinction, too often making the characters sound interchangeable. Ironically, his characterization of minor characters-Roy's father, for example-prove considerably more convincing. VERDICT Oprah's endorsement moves Jones's (Silver Sparrow) fourth novel into the rarified stratosphere; libraries should prepare for considerable demand. ["Jones's writing is engagingly layered with letters between the main characters integrated through the narrative": LJ 9/15/17 starred review of the Algonquin hc.]-Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, -Washington, DC © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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