|From||United States of America|
|Birth||30 November 1970, Atlanta, USA|
Tayari Jones (born November 30, 1970 in Atlanta, Georgia) is the author of four novels, most recently An American Marriage, which was a 2018 Oprah's Book Club Selection, and won the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction. She is a graduate of Spelman College, the University of Iowa, and Arizona State University. She is currently a member of the English faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences at Emory University, and recently returned to her hometown after a decade in New York City. Jones was appointed an Andrew Dickson White Professor-at-large at Cornell University (effective July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2025).
Jones was raised in Atlanta by her parents, Mack and Barbara Jones, who both participated in civil rights struggles in the 1960s. They went on to gain PhDs in social sciences and became professors at Clark College. She recalls growing up following the Civil Rights Movement in America and being very aware of her race, given books featuring black children and playing with black dolls.
After graduating from Benjamin Mays High School, Jones attended Spelman College, a historically black women's college in Atlanta. There she studied with Pearl Cleage, who after graduating from Spelman in 1971 joined the faculty as a writer and playwright in residence. Jones graduated from Spelman in 1991 and went on to complete a master's degree in English from University of Iowa in 1994 and a MFA in fiction from Arizona State University in 2000. She has received many fellowships, including from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Radcliffe Institute, and United States Artists.
Her first novel, Leaving Atlanta, is a three-voiced coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the Atlanta Child Murders of 1979–81. This novel, which was written while she was a graduate student at Arizona State University, is based on her experience as a child in Atlanta during that period. It won the 2003 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction. Aletha Spann of 30Nineteen Productions has purchased the film option for Leaving Atlanta.
The Untelling is also set in Atlanta. Described in Publishers Weekly as Jones's "deep-felt second novel", the book examines how the protagonist comes to terms with the loss of key members of her family as a child before having to redefine herself all over again in her mid-twenties. It was awarded the Lillian Smith Book Award in 2005.
Silver Sparrow, Jones's third novel, was published by Algonquin Books in 2011. It was an American Booksellers Association number 1 "Indie Next" pick.
An American Marriage, her latest novel, was published on February 6, 2018 by Algonquin. On the same day, Oprah Winfrey announced that An American Marriage would be a pick of Oprah's Book Club. An American Marriage is about an African-American couple whose lives are shaken when the husband is arrested for a crime he did not commit. Winfrey has also announced that she is producing a film adaptation of the book. President Barack Obama included An American Marriage on his summer 2018 reading list.
Honors and awards
Jones is a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction, Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, United States Artist Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and Radcliffe Institute Bunting Fellowship. Her novel, Silver Sparrow, was added to the NEA Big Read Library of classics in 2016. She is also a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers and was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in 2018.
In February 2018, Oprah Winfrey announced that her latest book club pick was Jones’ novel, An American Marriage. Winfrey said, “It's one of those books I could not put down. And as soon as I did, I called up the author, and said, 'I've got to talk to you about this story.'"
On June 5, An American Marriage was announced as the winner of the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction