An American Marriage
By Tayari Jones
Algonquin Books, 9781616208684, 2019, 336pp.
The Short of It:
Not what I expected. Tense, but exhausting.
The Rest of It:
Roy and Celestial are newly married. Both, have promising careers on the verge of success but one night, Roy is falsely accused of rape and they are torn from one another. It doesn’t matter that his alibi is solid, he’s black and the woman accusing him of the crime is not backing down. Roy is sentenced to twelve years for a crime he did not commit. Celestial is left wondering how to navigate this kind of marriage. Is it a marriage? Can she commit to a marriage like this? One where your husband is behind bars for twelve years?
This was a difficult read for me. These characters flirt with virtue and then do the opposite, over and over again. Although I could see their logic and often their justification for their actions, I quickly grew tired of the push and pull.
Additionally, I really had a problem with how Celestial is made out to be a piece of property over and over again. It didn’t fit her personality as she is very strong-willed and independent. Perhaps that’s why it bothered me so much that the author even went there. There is an entire section of the book where she’s referred to as “my woman” and that just rubbed me the wrong way.
Is An American Marriage a good book for a club to discuss? I think there is plenty to discuss. Between the false accusations and imprisonment, what it means to be married, the issues centering around race and class, and the importance of family, a group would have plenty to chew on.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.
13 thoughts on “Review: An American Marriage”
I read this when it was first published so I didn’t remember too much about it but, I do think it was just okay for me. Curious what the group will think?
We’ll find out. We meet tonight.
Sounds like a good discussion book, but I would be annoyed by that “my woman” stuff with a strong independent character.
Yep, I wouldn’t like the “my woman” remarks, either. I hate hearing men refer to their wives as “the wife.” Is it so difficult to just say their name?
I think I have this on audio, but haven’t gotten to it yet. I will eventually, I’m sure.
It bugged me too because these men are educated and the woman they kept referring to was independent but didn’t really stand up for herself. She said once she was not property but it wasn’t firmly put.
I heard the author speak when she came to Houston. A difficult read, I thought. I’ll be curious to see what your group thinks of it.
I really enjoyed her Silver Sparrow (and if you were a teen in the 80s it was cool) but this was hard for me to get through. I remember too much heartache.
It’s a rare story where you don’t really hate anyone, but you also aren’t rooting for anyone, you know?
I’ve had similar mixed feelings for this author’s previous book – Silver Sparrow. The book was good but there was a thing or two in the book that just bothered me a lot. I think on premise alone, I’m not very keen to read this book.
Sorry you didn’t enjoy it, I think I’ll pass. The third “My woman” would make me want to throw the book across the room.
It’s funny because some in my group didn’t get that vibe but I felt it was very possessive and borderline creepy for a man to refer to a woman that way.
This does sound like it could be good fodder for a book club discussion, but I think I’ll skip it. I am really interested in racial injustice, especially in the prison system, but can get that in books that won’t treat the woman as if she’s property.
Oddly enough, they don’t even mention the trial in this novel.