With two weeks to go until the winner of the Women’s Prize is announced, An American Marriage might just be our new favourite. With fans like Barack Obama author Tayari Jones is no stranger to literary accolades, but her latest novel stands quietly triumphant next to it’s competition. The moving story, beautifully written, brings the structural racism at the heart of America’s justice system home to explore it’s life-shattering effects. Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment the American Dream. They have careers, property and a bright future ahead of them. However, their lives are ripped apart when Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. As both characters try to navigate their new reality within the harsh frame of false imprisonment, the paths they so carefully carved out for themselves are forked by prejudice and adversity. Jones uses the domestic sphere to illuminate a much larger problem. Within the context of a marriage she explores control, perception and survival against the backdrop of America’s civil rights issues. There’s no doubt An American Marriage is a love story, but it’s also a tragedy that speaks loudly against the inequalities African-Americans still face at every turn.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Oneworld Publications, 2019.