By Natalya Sharp
Are you looking for a new read? A current and emotional book? A novel that exposes the devastating cracks within our society? Then the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019, An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones might be for you. The novel has moved celebrities and influencers, including Oprah – who in a short interview states, ‘it’s among Tayari’s many gifts that she can touch us soul to soul with her words’. Oprah was not the only notable person to give this novel their stamp of approval, former President and recent novelist himself, Barack Obama also demonstrated his appreciation of the book by saying it was ‘a moving portrayal of the effects of a wrongful conviction on a young-African-American couple’ and even added the book to his 2018 Summer Reading List.
However, if that is not enough to convince you then how about this…
This story provides an exciting and fast-paced read, as well as the chance to learn and educate yourself on an issue you might have never looked at, or one you want to increase your understanding about. This novel addresses the very current issue of racism within the American justice system, an issue that dominated the summer of 2020 through the powerful, moving, and history-making Black Lives Matter Protests. Following the unlawful killing of George Floyd, America and the rest of the world underwent a social awakening in regard to the racial issues that are prominent in our society. Many peaceful protests, from marches to petitions, occurred across this summer, a notable one of interest was the literary movement that occurred across ‘the “big five” publishers- Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, HarperCollins, and Macmillan’ following a letter they received from the Black Writers’ Guild, which stated that while they support them raising awareness of black inequality, they are failing to address their own inequalities.
Following the BLM movement, this book resurfaced, and again its success was outstanding, as it is not something we can enjoy only in the moment, it is something we can learn from, focus on and use to see the need for improvement in our society, if we ever want to achieve true equality. Many interesting and useful articles on educating yourself on racism through literature emerged and one that grabbed my attention was ‘An Extended List of Anti-Racist Resources’. This article focuses on racial equality starting with ‘education and re-education’ and goes onto provide an extensive list of books to read to help you do this – including An American Marriage!
Now for a brief synopsis if I have still failed to tempt you to pick it up…
This story follows a recently married, young African-American couple and their lives when one of them is falsely accused of a crime he did not commit, a crime he was believed to have done simply because of the colour of his skin, and sentenced to twelve years in prison. The readers follow Celestial, his wife, on her heartbreakingly difficult journey holding onto her love for Roy, while seeking comfort in the arms of another.
This book was on my reading list for the first lockdown and provided a brief moment of relief when I forgot we were in a pandemic, as this story of heartbreak, love, and betrayal, to use a cliche, transports you to another world – this really is a perfect read that should be on all your lockdown reads this new year!
If you have already read An American Marriage and are eager for more then check out her next book, Silver Sparrow!