Evening Book Club: Book Club
For more information regarding the Evening Book Club, please contact: Jaclyn Gomez at firstname.lastname@example.org
October 26, 2020
- Jones named her novel An American Marriage, a title which suggests this novel has something specific to say about marriage in America. What do you think this novel is saying about marriage? What makes the events of this novel specifically American?
- For Celestial, it seems as if certain behaviors are expected of her as a woman and, even more specifically, as Black woman. What sort of expectations do we see her family and Roy place on her? Are these expectations fair? Do you agree with how she responded to them?
- This story is told in three alternating perspectives: Celestial, Roy, and Andre. Was there a certain perspective you responded more positively towards? How do you think you would view these characters differently if the story was told only from Celestial’s point of view? Or Roy’s?
- In an interview Tayari Jones did for Book Riot, she said that before doing research for this book, she was interested in prison reform. Now, she’s more interested in the work of prison abolitionists because “I don’t see how our prison system is working for anyone—not the people who have committed crimes, not the victims, not the tax payers. Nobody is winning here.” Does this novel illustrate that perspective? Did reading this novel affect your opinion on the American prison system?
- This novel’s pacing is interesting in that it focuses in on specific moments of time for an extended period, speeds through others through the exchange of letters, and skips over periods of time entirely to move on to the next important moment. Why do you think Jones chose the moments she did to write about in detail? What effect did the fast passage of time have on the narrative?
- There are so many beautiful insights about love and the nature of love in this novel. For instance, Jones writes, “Love is the enemy of sound judgment, and occasionally this is in service of the good.” Do you agree with this sentiment? How does love affect characters’ decisions in this novel?
- Without including a spoiler that would give away this plot point, Roy meets someone incredibly important while he’s in prison. What do you think this added to the story? Did it change Roy in any significant way, and if so, how?
- Have you read If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin or the film adaptation of the novel directed by Barry Jenkins? Both stories have a similar premise but with very different outcomes. How would you compare the stories, and why do you think these characters responded so differently to such similar circumstances?
- How did you feel about the ending of this novel? Was it hopeful at all? Did you want things to turn out differently for these characters, and if so, how? Is there a potential ending that would have left Celestial, Roy, and Andre in a happy place?
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Newlyweds, Celestial and Roy, are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is artist on the brink of an exciting career. They are settling into the routine of their life together, when they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
An interview with the author
Dorothy Toy Fong
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