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February 6, 2018

Book Notes - Tayari Jones "An American Marriage"

An American Marriage

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Tayari Jones' novel An American Marriage is a powerful and timely exploration of race, class, and love.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Subtle, well-crafted, and powerful."


In her own words, here is Tayari Jones' Book Notes music playlist for her novel An American Marriage:



At the end of the day, An American Marriage is a love story. At the beginning of the day it’s a love story. In the middle of the day it’s a story about wrongful incarceration, contested paternity, entrepreneurship, and the impracticality of "ride or die". This playlist captures seven years in the life of Celestial and Roy, a newlywed couple that is rocked by Roy’s incarceration. It also looks into the heart of Andre, who has loved Celestial since the day he was born. The story is set in Atlanta, so R&B reigns supreme.


1) Adore, by Prince. Roy and Celestial are a passionate couple, always in love and in trouble. Prince doubles and triples enumerating all he would sacrifice for his love, but with one caveat, “Maybe not the ride…..” But even then, the exception is still a maybe.

2) Before I Let Go, Maze ft Frankie Beverly. I remarked to a friend from Queens that I love this song. He said, "Of course you do. You're black and from the south. It's your national anthem down there. It's the B side to "Lift Every Voice And Sing."

3) Very Special, by Deborah and Ronny Laws. This sweet, classic love song captures the couple when they are at their best. Picture them on their wedding day beautiful and delighted with each other-- twirling across a marble floor dressed in their wedding finery.

4) I Was Made To Love Her, by Stevie Wonder. Andre has loved Celestial since they were two little babies bathing together in the sink. The song says, “I wore high top shoes and shirt tails, Suzie was in pigtails. I knew I loved her even then.”

5) Party Up, by DMX. This song is better known by its chorus. “Y’all gon make me lose my mind, up in here, up in here.” There is no better expression of black male rage. Roy, sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, knows exactly where DMX is coming from.

6) Superstar, by Luther Vandross. Don't sleep on the riff of “Until you come back to me” that starts the track. I don’t want to spoil the book by telling you who is pining for whom by the middle of the story. But the question, “Don’t you remember you told me you love me, baby?” This is really the center of the story. Can you ever really un-love someone?

7) Reasons by Earth Wind and Fire. When love is forbidden, lovers are the most vulnerable. “I don’t want to feel, I’m in the wrong place to be real.” When Philip Bailey’s falsetto plays call in response with the saxophone, you understand that lovemaking is a primal collaboration.

8) Fuck You, by Cee Lo. Submitted without comment.

9) I’d Rather Go Blind, by Etta James. Again, no spoilers, but there are four lovers in this story and everyone can’t get what they want—or what they *think* they want..

10) Let’s Just Kiss and Say Goodbye. Sometimes the most adult thing to do is to walk away-- imagine a soulful Casablanca.

11) Say Amen, by Howard Hewett. Because there is more to our lives than this earthly plane.

12) As, by Stevie Wonder. When I was in college, I longed for the tempestuous romance described in the first song on this list, but life has taught me the value of the love that Stevie Wonder describes here—a communion that takes its quiet but awesome strength from the interconnectedness of the entire universe.


Tayari Jones and An American Marriage links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review
St. Louis Post Dispatch review
Washington Post review

Atlanta Journal-Constitution interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Atlanta Noir
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Silver Sparrow
New York Times interview with the author
Sydney Morning Herald essay by the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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