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An American Marriage

I guess I'm on a bit of a kick with marriage and divorce-themed books lately. I just finished Tayari Jones' An American Marriage, and I have a LOT of thoughts swirling around my head - gender roles in heterosexual relationships, the persistent nagging about the arrival of grandchildren from in-laws, and what I would do if my husband were arrested and sentenced for a crime he did not commit, among others.

An American Marriage centers on Roy and Celestial, a middle class and upwardly-mobile black couple in Atlanta, Georgia. After a mere year and a half of marriage, Roy is falsely accused and arrested for rape, and is sentenced to twelve years in prison. Celestial, a burgeoning artist, struggles to adapt to life with an imprisoned husband, especially one whose sentence is a decade longer than they've been married.

The author, Tayari Jones

Written largely from the perspective of Roy's letters from prison to Celestial, and Celestial's letters to Roy, An American Marriage brought forth how difficult it still is to be black under the shadow of the American justice system, and how difficult is is to maintain a marriage through the extreme hardship of a prison sentence. Throughout my reading, I kept trying to put myself in each character's shoes without picking sides. Really, what would I do, if after a year of marriage, my husband was sentenced to a decade in prison? Would I move on? What would I do if I had to spend a decade in prison? Would I resent my husband for moving on?

There were so many passages in this book that I wrote down, some because they were beautifully written, and others because I was baffled by them. I struggled a lot with the proliferation of traditional gender roles in relationships that Jones' characters put forth. In describing her "wifely duties," Celestial tells the reader, "a woman doesn’t always have a choice...not in a meaningful way. Sometimes there is a debt that must be paid. A comfort that she is obliged to provide."

Beautifully written (and read aloud, if you are into audiobooks!), An American Marriage is certainly worth a read if you A. trust the Obama's book recommendations, B. enjoy sexy books that are tasteful, or C. want to take your mind deep into hypothetical-town. Jones does a masterful job at delivering an element of humanity to all sides of the story, no matter the reader's personal morals.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about An American Marriage if you've read it! I'm getting started on Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino next!

Happy reading!


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