Tayari Jones

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Tayari Jones
Tayari Jones in 2010
Born (1970-11-30) November 30, 1970 (age 45)
Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Occupation Novelist, professor
Genre African American literature
Notable works Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, Silver Sparrow.

Tayari Jones (born November 30, 1970 in Atlanta, Georgia) is an American author and winner of the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction. She was educated at Spelman College, the University of Iowa and Arizona State University.


She started writing seriously at Spelman College, where she studied with Pearl Cleage, who published her first story, "Eugenics", in Catalyst magazine. Jones went on to University of Iowa, where she worked toward a Ph.D. in English, but she left after completing her master's degree. She also studied at The University of Georgia, where she worked with Kevin Young and Judith Ortiz Cofer. She left UGA to enroll in the MFA program at Arizona State University where she worked with Ron Carlson and Jewell Parker Rhodes.

Writing career[edit]

Jones with Lynne Tillman at the 2011 Brooklyn Book Festival.

Her first novel, Leaving Atlanta, is a three-voiced coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the Atlanta Child Murders of 1979-81. This novel, which was written while she was a graduate student at Arizona State University, is based on the experience as a child in Atlanta during that period. It won the 2003 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction.[1] Aletha Spann of 30Nineteen Productions has purchased the film option for Leaving Atlanta.[citation needed]

The Untelling is also set in Atlanta. Described in Publishers Weekly as Jones's "deep-felt second novel", the book examines how the protagonist comes to terms with the loss of key members of her family as a child before having to redefine herself all over again in her mid-twenties.[2][3] It was awarded the Lillian C. Smith Award for New Voices in 2005.[4]

Silver Sparrow, Jones's third novel, was published by Algonquin Books in 2011. It was an American Booksellers Association's number 1 "Indie Next" pick.[5]

Tayari Jones has taught creative writing at The University of Illinois and also at George Washington University, where she served as the Jenny McKean Moore Writer in Washington. She is now a member of the MFA faculty at the Newark Campus of Rutgers University. Her brother is the sports pundit Bomani Jones.[6]


  • Leaving Atlanta (2002)
  • The Untelling (2005)
  • Silver Sparrow (2011)


  • Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers (2000)
  • Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction (2003)
  • Lillian C. Smith Award (2006)
  • United States Artists Collins Fellowship (2008)
  • Radcliffe Institute Fellowship (2011)

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "2003 Hurston/Wright LEGACY Award™ Winners". Retrieved 30 November 2012. 
  2. ^ Straight, Susan (May 2005). "A REVIEW OF THE UNTELLING BY TAYARI JONES". The Believer (magazine). Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  3. ^ Staff (2005-02-28). "THE UNTELLING. Tayari Jones, Author.". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  4. ^ Vasconcelos, Elizabete (2007-03-17). "Tayari Jones (b. 1970)". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  5. ^ Cowles, Libby (June 2011). "Silver Sparrow: A Novel, by Tayari Jones". American Booksellers Association. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  6. ^ Jones, Bomani. "Houston Part III".