Tayari Jones will present her novel, “An American Marriage,” at 5 p.m. today at Off Square Books.
Jones’ new novel is based in her hometown of Atlanta. It tells the tale of newlyweds trying to adjust to their new lives when the husband is wrongly accused and convicted of a crime he did not commit. The inspiration for the novel came from Jones’ interest in the history of falsely accused citizens.
“I was moved by reading oral histories of people who were wrongfully incarcerated. I was also curious about the lives of their families,” Jones said. “The question for me is, ‘Can life go on?’”
As the title reveals, the novel also centers closely around the idea of marriages affected by incarceration in today’s society.
“The question facing the marriage at the center of this novel is whether or not the marriage really has a chance when it is faced with the inhumanity of the prison system,” Jones said.
Her goal behind the novel is to illuminate the need for empathy toward those who have been affected by the prison system.
This is not the first time Jones has debuted one of her novels at Square Books. Back in 2002, Jones came to Oxford to present her first book, “Leaving Atlanta,” which received the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction. Square Books manager Lyn Roberts said she has been waiting for Jones’ return to Oxford since then, but she is not an author who undertakes a new book tour every year.
“(‘An American Marriage’) is really a great story, and it’s thoughtful about our environment, race and where we are today without being preachy,” Roberts said. “It shows how people come together and are able to stay together, and how people change and develop over time.”
Jones’ success in conveying the need for love towards the wrongfully imprisoned has landed “An American Marriage” a spot in Oprah’s Book Club for 2018. Jones said that recognition was a dream come true.
Even with her great success in her writing, Jones said she is still thrilled to share her new book with the Oxford community.
“Square Books is a powerhouse bookstore – it’s an honor to visit this place that is such a champion of Southern writers,” Jones said. “It’s always wonderful to be invited back.”
Roberts recommends that all readers come out for at least one of these events to meet personable authors such as Jones as well as to understand the authors’ perspectives on their literary works.
Roberts said Jones’ insights are valuable, and also sees her character as a drawing factor for many of those interested in coming to tonight’s reading.
“I love her. I think she is a great writer, and I like her personally, too. She’s really charming and interesting – very thoughtful and knowledgeable,” Roberts said. “This is a book that, over time, everyone will know about.”