Tayari Jones, author of “An American Marriage,” will speak in Everett Feb. 15 as part of the Everett Reads! program. (Nina Subin photo)

Tayari Jones, author of “An American Marriage,” will speak in Everett Feb. 15 as part of the Everett Reads! program. (Nina Subin photo)

Everett Reads! pick ‘An American Marriage’ explores injustice

Author Tayari Jones, a favorite of Barack Obama and Bill Gates, will speak in Everett on Feb. 15.

Readers, meet Roy and Celestial. They’re the characters at the center of “An American Marriage,” a best-selling novel by Tayari Jones.

Get ready for a fiercely written love story that explores a black man’s wrongful conviction and incarceration, and what happens to the promise of a couple’s union. Get ready for a personal tale, strengthened by a foundation built upon the author’s wisdom about race and injustice.

“An American Marriage” is the 2020 Everett Reads! selection.

As part of the Everett Public Library’s annual community reading program, Jones will present a free talk here later this month. Scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Everett Performing Arts Center, the author’s visit is part of an ongoing Civil Everett program.

That effort, a partnership between the library and the city, was launched with a gathering last October at Cascade High School. There, philosopher David E. Smith, who teaches in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute affiliated with the University of Washington, spoke about “Civil Conversation in an Angry Age.”

Jones’ talk here is another event aimed at engaging people in open and courteous discussions of what may be difficult topics.

“This program is the final keynote piece of it,” said Abby Cooley, director of the Everett Public Library. “The great thing about a community reads program, you’re bringing people together though a book. A fiction book can resonate in our community on a different level.”

The subjects — racism, unjust incarceration, marriage, family and disloyalty — could stir strong emotions and heated debate. By reading and hearing from the author as a community, Cooley said, people have the story in common.

“An American Marriage,” she said, looks at how “being incarcerated affects your personal life, your family, those relationships — the most important things about being human.”

“Part of the reason it resonates, it’s a very well written book. We’re thrilled to have gotten her to come,” Cooley said of the author.

Cooley is far from alone in praising “An American Marriage.” It was chosen by Oprah Winfrey in 2018 as an Oprah’s Book Club pick. It was one of five titles listed on former President Barack Obama’s 2018 summer reading list, and it topped Bill Gates’ winter 2019 list of favorite books.

There are reports that Winfrey intends to make a movie of “An American Marriage.” And in 2019, Jones’ book was honored with an NAACP Image Award in the category of “Outstanding Literary Work — Fiction.”

Jones, who lives in and writes about Atlanta, is part of the creative writing faculty at Emory University there, and is an A.D. White Professor at Large at Cornell University. One of her other three novels, “Leaving Atlanta,” is based on the child murders of 1979-1980 in that city, told from the perspective of children living in the midst of that crisis.

With Everett Reads! “we try to balance light and heavy,” Cooley said. Past choices have included David Sheff’s “Beautiful Boy,” about a family whose son struggles with addiction; “Boys in the Boat,” Daniel James Brown’s true saga of University of Washington rowers competing in the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany; and Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire mystery series, based in the American West.

This year, Cooley said, “we thought it was important to pick a topic that was challenging.” With Everett’s growing diversity, she said, “it’s very important that diversity is reflected in the authors we have come to our community.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Everett Reads!

Tayari Jones, author of the best-selling novel “An American Marriage,” will present a free talk at 7 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave. “An American Marriage” is the Everett Public Library’s 2020 community reading event, Everett Reads! Copies of the book are available to borrow at the library, and will be available for sale and signing at the event.

Information: www.epls.org

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