Friday, June 1, 2012

Tayari Jones in Chapel Hill!

Atlanta native Tayari Jones talked about the complicated dynamics of extended families at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill last night. Her latest and third novel, Silver Sparrow, is told from the perspectives of two daughters with the same father – the catch is that Chaurisse is legitimate, and Dana is the product of the father’s secret marriage. Although Jones doesn’t have the same background as the girls – she has half-sisters by legal means – she found ways to identify with both of them though a kind of “emotional autobiography,” using feelings and memories from her own life and family relationships.

 Everyone knows what it feels like not to belong, like Dana, who must keep her family life a secret. “I try to find out where I have a version of that myself,” Jones said.

 She started her novel with the feeling that she wanted to write a book about sisters, and the idea of bigamy sprouted from that. As we’ve seen in cases like John Edwards’, secret families are more common that we think, Jones said, but are taboo because children are involved. Readers will sometimes come up to Jones after a reading and say, “I’m a silver sparrow,” meaning that they’re a child from a secret marriage.

Jones has already started her fourth novel, which will likely be about a man wrongfully accused of a crime. When he is suddenly freed from prison, he has to pick up the pieces of his relationship with his wife – another complex topic! “What is our obligation to people who get out of prison?” Jones asked.

She’s written more than 100 pages so far, so she’s pretty confident the novel will “take”! Jones doesn’t outline her plot beforehand: “I like to feel breathless and stressed out when I write,” she said, because that’s the way she believes people like to read, too, with a feeling of anticipation and what’s going to happen next?

 As well as giving readings throughout the country, Jones is an Associate Professor in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University and is spending the 2011-12 academic year at Harvard University as a Radcliffe Institute Fellow, researching her fourth novel. Check out this dynamic writer!


Italia said...

Tayari Jones gives us everything to love in her evocative new novel. It's haunting and funny and poignant and page-turning all in one. Beautifully crafted, the novel masterfully shifts point of view, making you feel loyal to both sisters and both mothers in this complex tale about a man who has two families on opposite sides of town. It's an amazing tour-de-force of storytelling, filled with complicated portrayals, exquisite detail and no easy sides to take. I read it in a rush, my heart bracing for the inevitable. And still, I didn't want it to end. It's true: SILVER SPARROW soars.

Louisa said...

Excellent overview! I'm in the process of reading it now and am really enjoying it!