Have You Met Rutgers-Newark?
Several years ago, Essence magazine declared Tayari Jones a “writer to watch.” That might have been an understatement.
Jones, who teaches graduates students in Rutgers-Newark’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program, is now the author of three critically acclaimed novels, all published by the time she was 41. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New York Times, Callaloo, MacSweeney’s, The Believer, New Stories From The South, and other publications. The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. has awarded her its 2012 “Lifetime Achievement Award in the Fine Arts” for her “brilliant literary contributions.”
Jones also has received fellowships from organizations including The National Endowment for the Arts, The United States Artists Foundation, and the arts councils of Illinois and Arizona. Jones spent the 2011-12 academic year at Harvard University as a Radcliffe Institute Fellow, researching her fourth novel.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution has proclaimed Jones to be "one of the best writers of her generation.” The Village Voice says that “Jones has done for Black middle class Atlanta what Cheever does for Westchester.”
Jones’s first novel, Leaving Atlanta, is a coming of age story set during the city’s infamous child murders of 1979-81. Jones herself was in the fifth grade when 30 African American children were murdered from the neighborhoods near her home and school. Leaving Atlanta received many awards and accolades including the Hurston/Wright Award for Debut Fiction. It was named “Novel of the Year” by Atlanta Magazine, “Best Southern Novel of the Year,” by Creative Loafing Atlanta. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Washington Post both listed it as one of the best of 2002. A movie version of Leaving Atlanta is in production.
In August 2013, Leaving Atlanta was cited as one of the “25 best” debut novels of the 21st Century, by The Book Case, the online blog of the BookPage. The Aug. 6 blogpost named Leaving Atlanta (2002) to its list of “First Fiction: The 25 best debuts of the 2000s.”
It was the publication of her second novel, The Untelling, that led Essence magazine to name Jones "a writer to watch." In 2005, The Southern Regional Council and the University of Georgia Libraries awarded Jones the Lillian C. Smith Award for New Voices.
Her third novel, Silver Sparrow has sealed her reputation has a major author. A long list of literary honors has followed the book’s 2011 publication. Atlanta Magazine book critic Teresa Weaver selected Silver Sparrow as one of the top five fiction titles of the year. Library Journal named it one of 2012’s top 10. The audio version of Silver Sparrow was selected by eMusic as one of the top audio books of 2011, and Silver Sparrow was named to Mosaic Literary Magazine’s “Best of 2011″ list. O Magazine named it one of its 2011 “Favorite Things,” and The Atlanta Journal Constitution selected Silver Sparrow as 2011′s “Best of The South.” Silver Sparrow was nominated for NAACP Image Awards and named a 2012 Honor Book by The Black Caucus of the American Library Association; the Texas Library Association named Silver Sparrow to its “Lariat List” for 2012. Jones has just received a third nomination for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.
Jones' latest novel, An American Marriage, was chosen for Oprah Winfrey's Book Club in February 2018. Winfrey calls the book: “an aha-moment-inducing tour de force.” The novel has also garnered critical acclaim from reviewers in several media outlets including CBS News, The Washington Post, USA Today, Kirkus and Newsday.
Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, the University of Iowa and Arizona State University. She is an associate professor in Rutgers-Newark's acclaimed Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program.
She has served on the advisory board of SheWrites.com and recently completed her term as vice chair of the Board of Directors of Girls Write Now, a non-profit organization serving New York City teenagers.