Tayari Jones Wins Aspen Words Prize with An American Marriage

June 5, 2019  • Institute Staff

On April 11, the Institute awarded its second annual Aspen Words Literary Prize, which is dedicated to fiction that has social impact, to Tayari Jones, the author of An American Marriage, a novel that addresses wrongful incarceration and racial discrimination. More than 200 literary enthusiasts, authors, and publishing insiders gathered at New York City’s Morgan Library for the awards ceremony, presented by the Institute and NPR Books. In addition to Jones, the five finalists were Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah for Friday Black, David Chariandy for Brother, Jennifer Clement for Gun Love, and Tommy Orange for There There. Renee Montagne, special correspondent and host of NPR News, moderated a panel discussion with the shortlisted authors. “Through this prize, we’re thrilled to identify, honor, and shine a spotlight on new fiction that helps readers gain a deeper understanding of pressing social issues,” said Adrienne Brodeur, the executive director of Aspen Words. It was a message Jones took to heart. “So many of us who want to write and engage in the issues of the day are encouraged not to,” she said. “We’re told that that’s not what real art does. An award like this encourages all of us to keep following the strength of our convictions.” Jones received a $35,000 cash prize—one of the largest cash prizes awarded to a work of literature in the United States—and an aspen-leaf trophy. This year’s jury included National Book Award finalist Dorothy Allison, 2018 Aspen Literary Prize finalist Samrat Upadhyay, Institute Executive Vice President Elliot Gerson, Aspen Words Advisory Board President Suzanne Bober, and Columbia University’s Farah Jasmine Griffin.