Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta during the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon's families: the public one and the secret one. When Witherspoon's daughters from each family meet, they form a friendship, but only one of them knows they are sisters. It is a relationship destined to explode when secrets are revealed and illusions shattered. As Jones explores the backstories of her rich and flawed characters, she also reveals the joy, and the destruction, they brought to each other's lives.

At the heart of it all are two girls whose lives are at stake, and like the best writers, Jones portrays the fragility of her characters with raw authenticity as they seek love, demand attention, and try to imagine themselves as women. Jones will offer a keynote speech to kick off our month-long Big Read celebration. Her talk will be followed by an interview conducted by James Hannaham and an audience Q&A.

Tayari Jones is the author of three novels:  Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, and Silver Sparrow.  Her writing has appeared in Tin House, The Believer, The New York Times, and Callaloo.  She is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers.  A recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, she is an Associate Professor in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University.

James Hannaham is the author, most recently, of the novel Delicious Foods. He teaches in the writing MFA program at the Pratt Institute.

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NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

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