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Algonquin Books, 2011Buy at



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Reader’s Guide (pdf, 494 KB)

Silver Sparrow

With the opening line of Silver Sparrow, “My father, James Witherspoon is a bigamist,” Tayari Jones unveils a breathtaking story about a man’s deception, a family’s complicity, and the teenage girls caught in the middle.

Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon’s families– the public one and the secret one. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters. It is a relationship destined to explode when secrets are revealed and illusions shattered. As Jones explores the backstories of her rich and flawed characters, she also reveals the joy, and the destruction, they brought to each other’s lives.

At the heart of it all are the two girls whose lives are at stake, and like the best writers, Jones portrays the fragility of her characers with raw authenticity as they seek love, demand attention, and try to imagine themselves as women.

 

“Tayari Jones is fast defining middle-class black Atlanta the way Cheever did Westchester…”
The Village Voice
“Jones is a master and Silver Sparrow is a revelation, alive with meaning and hope.”
—Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Lark and Termite

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Warner Books, 2005Buy at



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Reader’s Guide (pdf, 212 KB)

The Untelling

Tayari Jones paints a vivid, unforgettable portrait of a woman seeking to overcome the trauma of her past.

When nine-year-old Ariadne Jackson loses her father and baby sister in an auto accident, her life in a black middle-class Atlanta neighborhood changes forever. Her eccentric mother grows more erratic, locking Aria and her surviving sister, Hermione, out of the house on Halloween or serving them raw chicken as a punishment for bad behavior. These little cruelties push Hermione to distance herself from the family, leaving Ariadne to fend for herself.

Years later, at 25, Aria believes she has surmounted the traumas of her youth, until she thinks she is pregnant but instead finds that she is infertile. Her life becomes layered with lies and half-truths as she fears she will lose the promise of family and a normal life. It is the untelling of these tales that leads her finally to accept the odd turns a life may take. Teens will appreciate Ariadne’s dilemma as she wrestles first with the implications of a child out-of-wedlock and then the more difficult truth that she will never bear her own children. They will also understand how she must unravel the untruths she has told, just as her namesake in Greek mythology unrolled a length of string to rescue her lover from a deadly maze.

 

“Jones went to the wilderness and mounted a wild and bucking story. THE UNTELLING is a mustang. Free. Bold. Classy. No sophomore jitters here. No timidity. Just a strong wind swirling the truth, hoping for love, daring the reader to inhale the forgiveness.”
— Nikki Giovanni, author of Spin a Soft Black Song
“Jones is a remarkable novelist, able to face down the tragedies of life with the clarity and beauty and even the dark humor of a true artist. And she has unerring storytelling instincts. THE UNTELLING is a wonderful book and Tayari Jones is a flat-out brilliant writer.”
- Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

 

 

 


Warner Books, 2002Buy at



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Reader’s Guide (pdf, 176 KB)

Leaving Atlanta

In her critically acclaimed debut, Tayari Jones explores the tragedy of the Atlanta Child Murders through the eyes of three unforgettable children.

Tasha can’t understand why she daily falls in and out of favor with her classmates—she isn’t weird like Rodney or “too dark” and outspoken like Octavia. Then, through a sudden crush on a boy from the wrong side of town, she finds that words have the power to both heal and wound. (The next thought was that Tasha herself had brought it upon him with her hateful words. “I hope the man snatches you.” And she meant it when she said it..

For her classmate Rodney, almost everything feels wrong. Not tough enough to be loved by his strict father, too different to be accepted at school, he struggles to fit in somewhere. How far will he go to escape his bleak inner landscape? (Nothing you know is in the direction you’re heading. Home is the other way.) And Rodney’s “almost friend” Octavia, the loner the kids call “the Watusi,” who lives near the projects, will discover that she, too, has something left to lose. (I cried because it seemed like everything good in the world was locked in a box. “Mama, let me stay.”)

Movingly detailed and quietly heartbreaking, Leaving Atlanta shimmers with the piercing, ineffable quality of childhood. It is the hurts and little wins we all went through, the slow and all-too-sudden changes, and the forces that swept us into adulthood and forever shaped our lives.

 

“Possessing a flawless ear for the poetry of African-American speech and impressive technical skill and daring, Jones has written a debut novel that places her in the front ranks of the new generation of writers. LEAVING ATLANTA sings true on every page!”
— Paule Marshall, author of The Fisher King and Daughters
“Does a wonderful job of capturing such magic childhood moments, brimming with angst and joy. She also paints an authentic picture of Atlanta. Jones’s novel manages to explore all this terrain with a lighthearted grace. an impressive debut from a prodigiously talented young writer.”
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution