US Author Tayari Jones Wins 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction

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A story of the ‘New South’ in the States, Tayari Jones’ ‘An American Marriage’ is about injustice, love, and family, its issues of race and class played out in Atlanta.

Tayari Jones. Image: Women’s Prize for Fiction

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘An American Marriage’
Brooklyn-based Tayari Jones tonight in London (June 5) has won the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction, the UK award better known by the names of sponsors, Orange and Baileys.

Jones’ An American Marriage is published in the States by Workman’s Algonquin Books, and in the UK  by Oneworld.

A member of the Rutgers University faculty’s MFA program, Jones has written four novels, and An American Marriage was made one of Oprah Winfrey’s book club selections in 2018, helping to catapult the book to the attention of readers.

This evening’s awards ceremony was held in Bedford Square Gardens in the British capital and was hosted by the prize program’s founding director Kate Mosse. Jones was presented with by Kate Williams, chair of the 2019 jury, with the award’s £30,000 purse (US$38,052) and the “Bessie,” a limited edition bronze figurine. Both elements of the award program are anonymously endowed.

In describing the winning book, Williams said, “This is an exquisitely intimate portrait of a marriage shattered by racial injustice.

The American cover

“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.”

Also on the jury this year were:

  • Arifa Akbar, journalist and critic
  • Dolly Alderton, columnist, broadcaster and author
  • Leyla Hussein, psychotherapist
  • Sarah Wood, digital entrepreneur

In addition to the Women’s Prize for Fiction announcement, the aspiring novelist Helen Rogers was named as the winner of the Women’s Prize/Grazia First Chapter Competition for unpublished writers.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, the prize today—which takes none of its backers’ names—is sponsored by Baileys, Fremantle, and NatWest.

The shortlist this year, in addition to Jones’ novel, comprised:

  • The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
  • My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
  • Milkman by Anna Burns
  • Ordinary People by Diana Evans
  • Circe by Madeline Miller

Set up in 1996 to celebrate and promote international fiction by women throughout the world to the widest range of readers possible, the Women’s Prize for Fiction is awarded for the best full-length novel of the year, written by a woman and published in the UK between April 1, 2018, and March 31, 2019.

Any woman writing in English—whatever her nationality, country of residence, age or subject matter—is eligible.


More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book awards is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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