Winner Of The 2019 Prestigious Women’s Prize For Fiction

In a week when the Trump family’s visit prompted protests, criticism and controversy around London, it was pleasing today to hear the pro-American happy news that Atlanta academic and writer Tayari Jones was the winner of the 2019 prestigious Women’s Prize for Fiction.

The 48 year-old English professor’s international bestseller An American Marriage beat a strong field including two Booker Prize winners, Anna Burns and Pat Barker. (Other finalists included Madeline Miller, Oyinkan Braithwaite, Madeline Miller and Diana Evans.) Jones wins nearly $55,000.

An American Marriage tells the story of a black man wrongly convicted of rape and the terrible impact this conviction has on his relationship. It has been a strong seller in our store, and we have noticed in recent weeks several local book clubs have picked it up as a novel to study.

At the London announcement ceremony, chair of the judging panel  historian Kate Williams said: "This is an exquisitely intimate portrait of a marriage shattered by racial injustice. It is a story of love, loss and loyalty, the resilience of the human spirit painted on a big political canvas — that shines a light on today's America.’’

"We all loved this brilliant book."

Upon receiving the award, Jones said: “I am thrilled and honored. I wasn’t expecting to win. The shortlist was so strong and I was honored to be among them but I had no idea whether I would win. I didn’t write a speech!”

She said incarceration is the “boogeyman of black America,”  adding. “I decided to look under the bed and tackle it head on.

Speaking later to the Press Association, Jones told reporters she represents the future while Donald Trump is the past.

“I believe that I represent the future. I represent an inclusive America, an America that is critical of itself, and that is interested in a more equitable future,” the author said. ““I believe that Donald Trump represents an idea of a nostalgic past, a nostalgic 50s when the ugliness is hidden.

“That’s not where we’re going. We’re seeing so many harbingers that the people want freedom, the people want equality, the people want the future to live up the ideals of all of our nations.”

An American Marriage has received glowing praise since it arrived in bookstores last year, including powerful endorsements from Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey. Writes the Philadelphia Tribune: "This is a novel that unabashedly plays with your senses of right and not-quite-right. It also plays with your emotions, if you've ever been in love -- so have a handful of tissues nearby. An American Marriage could bring you to your knees."

Meanwhile, Buzzfeed says this is “exactly the right time for Tayari Jones to be writing -- and for us to be reading Tayari Jones. In the years since her debut, she has been getting better, and . . . added heft and substance to the rich and necessary stories she weaves."

In the UK, The Guardian also urges readers to venture forth. “This is a marvellous feat of storytelling, told with the type of light touch that can only be achieved through hard work. Any reader will warm to the characters’ southern lilt, with its gentle formality, a courtliness that has all but vanished from any other English-speaking part of the world.”

We particularly like writer Stephanie Powell Watts’ review in the New York Times which starts: “Tayari Jones’s wise and compassionate new novel, “An American Marriage,” tells us a story we think we know. Roy, a young black man, is tried and wrongly convicted of rape while his wife, Celestial, waits for his return. But Jones’s story isn’t the one we are expecting, a courtroom drama or an examination of the prison-industrial complex; instead, it is a clear vision of the quiet devastation of a family. The novel focuses on the failed hopes of romantic love, disapproving in-laws, flawed families of origin, and the question of life with or without children that all married couples must negotiate. It is beautifully written, with many allusions to black music and culture — including the everyday poetry of the African-American community that begs to be heard.” (Click here to read the review)

Now in its 24th year, the Women’s Prize (previously known as the Orange Prize then the Bailey Prize) has been won by some of the literary world’s giants, including Ann Patchett, Zadie Smith, Barbara Kingsolver and Lionel Shriver. We hope you enjoy it. (And if you would like to buy a copy, CLICK HERE)

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