Reading guide for An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

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An American Marriage

by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones X
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2018, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2019, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. The title of this novel is An American Marriage. Do you feel this title accurately represents the novel? Why or why not? And if you do find the title appropriate, what about the story makes it particularly "American"?
  2. The author wanted to write a book that took on some of the inequalities of mass incarceration and really have the issue resonate, even for readers who think, This couldn't happen to me . Do you think she succeeded?
  3. You may not have noticed that Tayari Jones does not specify the race of the woman who accuses Roy of rape. How did you picture this woman? What difference does the race of this woman make in the way you under- stand the novel's storyline?
  4. Do you understand Celestial's impulse to seek companionship and love with Andre in Roy's absence, or do you think she should have stayed true to Roy no matter what?
  5. There are two father figures in Roy's life: Big Roy is the one who shep- herded him into adulthood and helped him grow into a responsible, capa- ble person, but Walter is the one who taught Roy how to survive. Do you feel these men deserve equal credit? If not, which was the more important figure in Roy's life and why?
  6. After Roy is released from prison, Celestial eventually feels she must submit to Roy because he is still her husband. Do you think she should have given the marriage more of a chance, or did you root for her to stay with Andre?
  7. Roy is hurt when Celestial, in discussing her career as an artist, doesn't mention him or the role he played in giving her the encouragement and freedom to follow her dreams, but Walter argues that she is justified in her silence. Do you agree? Do you think her silence is due to shame, or is she just being practical in how she presents herself to advance her career?
  8. It is obvious that Andre is different from Roy in many ways. Do you feel that ultimately he is a better match for Celestial? If so, why? Also, why do you think Celestial and Andre decide against formally marrying?
  9. Do you think Andre strategized to get Celestial to fall in love with him, or did it happen naturally? Do you feel that it was a surprise to them that it happened after all those years? Do you predict that Celestial's parents will come to accept Andre as her life partner?
  10. You can feel Roy's seething anger at the unfairness of what he's had to endure in prison and then what he has to accept on being released. Because of that, did you feel as if his rage and violence were justified?
  11. What are the lessons about wrongful imprisonment you are taking away from this novel? Does the novel make you want to do more to address the problem?


Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Algonquin Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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