An American Marriage by Tayari Jones Wins Aspen Words Literary Prize

April 11, 2019

The $35,000 Prize Honors a Work of Fiction that Illuminates a Vital Contemporary Issue

For Immediate Release
Elizabeth Nix
Program Associate | Aspen Words
970-925-3122 ext. 4 |

Jon Purves
Senior Media Relations Associate I The Aspen Institute
212-736-2111 |

New York, NY, April 11, 2019 –Tonight, Tayari Jones was named winner of the $35,000 Aspen Words Literary Prize (AWLP) for her novel An American Marriage. The award, which is one of the largest literary prizes in the United States, was established by the Aspen Institute to honor a work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture.

“Thank you to Aspen Words for this award, for having this award at all because, for so many of us who want to write and engage the issues of the day, we’re encouraged not to. We’re told that that’s not what real art does,” said Tayari Jones upon receiving the Aspen Words Literary Prize. “An award like this encourages all of us to keep following the strength of our convictions.”

“An American Marriage is a gripping novel about the dissolution of a marriage. But beneath the surface of this deeply moving love story is a powerful statement about unjust incarceration and a corrupt criminal justice system that has ravaged generations of African-American families,” noted the AWLP jury. “Writing with poignancy and humor, Jones offers a much-needed meditation on issues of race, class, identity—and shows us how to move forward after a great loss.”

In addition to the best-selling An American Marriage, which is published by Algonquin Books, Jones is the author of the novels Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling and Silver Sparrow, which was added to the NEA Big Read Library in 2016. Her writing has appeared in Tin House, The Believer and The New York Times, among other publications. A member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, Jones has been a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Awards in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, a United States Artists Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship and other awards. A graduate of Spelman College, the University of Iowa and Arizona State University, she is a professor of creative writing at Emory University.

The winner was announced live at an awards ceremony at The Morgan Library in New York City, and featured a conversation with the finalist authors, moderated by National Public Radio’s Renee Montagne (NPR is a media partner on the award). Finalists included: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Friday Black), David Chariandy (Brother), Jennifer Clement (Gun Love) and Tommy Orange (There There).

A livestream recording of the ceremony, finalists’ panel and acceptance speech is available here:

About the Aspen Words Literary Prize

The $35,000 Aspen Words Literary Prize is awarded annually to an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture. Open to authors of any nationality, the award is one of the largest literary prizes in the United States, and one of the few focused exclusively on fiction with a social impact. The inaugural award was presented to Mohsin Hamid in April 2018 for Exit West, his novel about migration and refugees. Eligible works include novels or short story collections that address questions of violence, inequality, gender, the environment, immigration, religion, race or other social issues.

The jury for the 2019 prize included Dorothy Allison, Suzanne Bober, Elliot Gerson, Farah Jasmine Griffin and head judge Samrat Upadhyay, a finalist for the 2018 Aspen Words Literary Prize. In addition to a cash award, the winner of the AWLP will receive a unique trophy designed by sculptor Michael Lorsung of the Anderson Ranch Arts Center near Aspen, Colorado.

Aspen Words was founded in 1976 as a literary center based in Aspen, CO. A program of the Aspen Institute, its mission is to encourage writers, inspire readers, and connect people through the power of stories. For more information, visit

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, CO; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit | | #AspenLitPrize

More information about the Aspen Words Literary Prize and the finalists is available at:

Download book jacket and author headshot:

Aspen Words Literary Prize logo:


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