Tayari Jones has been announced as the winner of the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction for her novel An American Marriage.
The prize is worth £30,000 (about R555 500) and is open to any full length novel, in any genre, written in English by a woman of any nationality, provided that the novel is published in print form in the United Kingdom.
The American author topped a shortlist that included two Booker Prize winners in Anna Burns and Pat Barker.
An American Marriage, Jones’s fourth novel, is about a young African American couple who are ripped apart when the husband is sentenced to twelve years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Professor Kate Williams, chair of the prize’s judges, 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.
Here’s the moment Jones received the prize in London, United Kingdom:
— Women's Prize (@WomensPrize) June 5, 2019
The book is a bestseller in the United States, having been chosen by Oprah for her book club, and was singled out by former president Barack Obama as a key read.
The first chapter of An American Marriage is available online at Penguin, Jones’s publisher:
There are two kinds of people in the world, those who leave home, and those who don’t. I’m a proud member of the first category. My wife, Celestial, used to say that I’m a country boy at the core, but I never cared for that designation. For one, I’m not from the country per se. Eloe, Louisiana, is a small town. When you hear ‘country’, you think raising crops, baling hay, and milking cows. Never in my life have I picked a single cotton boll, although my daddy did. I have never touched a horse, goat, or pig, nor have I any desire to. Celestial used to laugh, clarifying that she’s not saying I’m a farmer, just country. She is from Atlanta, and there was a case to be made that she is country, too. But let her tell it, she’s a ‘southern woman’, not to be confused with a ‘southern belle’. For some reason, ‘Georgia peach’ is all right with her, and it’s all right with me, so there you have it.
Jones was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1970, and recently returned to the city after a decade-long stint in New York.
‘Thank you to the Women’s Prize for caring about women’s voices,’ Jones said in accepting the award. ‘We need women’s voices now, in these times, more than ever.’ She also implored the audience to ‘hold your governments accountable for the people who are held in bondage in our names.’