Warner Books, 2002

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


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