So your book club chose to discuss An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, and you’re looking for An American Marriage book club questions for this novel. You’ve come to the right place. But first: a story.
This is a true story. When An American Marriage by Tayari Jones first came out, my book club discussed it. I was the one who suggested the book for my book club, actually. I read the book. I loved it. I was excited about discussing it with my book club friends. Then I got called into work last minute and I wasn’t able to go to the meeting.
So I never got to talk about An American Marriage with anyone else, and that’s bothered me for a while. This book is such a great one to open up a dialogue about so many topics: racism, feminism, the justice system in America, marriage, family, responsibility, and so on. I’ve recommended this book to people I hardly know in the hopes that they’ll talk to me about some of these things. And you know what? No such luck yet.
But if I could go back in time and go to that book club meeting I missed, I would ask these questions about Tayari Jones’s amazing novel An American Marriage.
10 An American Marriage Book Club Questions For Tayari Jones’s Novel
- Jones named her novel An American Marriage, a title which suggests this novel has something specific to say about marriage in America. What do you think this novel is saying about marriage? What makes the events of this novel specifically American?
- For Celestial, it seems as if certain behaviors are expected of her as a woman and, even more specifically, as Black woman. What sort of expectations do we see her family and Roy place on her? Are these expectations fair? Do you agree with how she responded to them?
- This story is told in three alternating perspectives: Celestial, Roy, and Andre. Was there a certain perspective you responded more positively towards? How do you think you would view these characters differently if the story was told only from Celestial’s point of view? Or Roy’s?
- In an interview Tayari Jones did for Book Riot, she said that before doing research for this book, she was interested in prison reform. Now, she’s more interested in the work of prison abolitionists because “I don’t see how our prison system is working for anyone—not the people who have committed crimes, not the victims, not the tax payers. Nobody is winning here.” Does this novel illustrate that perspective? Did reading this novel affect your opinion on the American prison system?
- This novel’s pacing is interesting in that it focuses in on specific moments of time for an extended period, speeds through others through the exchange of letters, and skips over periods of time entirely to move on to the next important moment. Why do you think Jones chose the moments she did to write about in detail? What effect did the fast passage of time have on the narrative?
- There are so many beautiful insights about love and the nature of love in this novel. For instance, Jones writes, “Love is the enemy of sound judgment, and occasionally this is in service of the good.” Do you agree with this sentiment? How does love affect characters’ decisions in this novel?
- Celestial starts a successful business creating poupées, or baby dolls. What do these dolls symbolize for Celestial?
- Without including a spoiler that would give away this plot point, Roy meets someone incredibly important while he’s in prison. What do you think this added to the story? Did it change Roy in any significant way, and if so, how?
- Have you read If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin or the film adaptation of the novel directed by Barry Jenkins? Both stories have a similar premise but with very different outcomes. How would you compare the stories, and why do you think these characters responded so differently to such similar circumstances?
- How did you feel about the ending of this novel? Was it hopeful at all? Did you want things to turn out differently for these characters, and if so, how? Is there a potential ending that would have left Celestial, Roy, and Andre in a happy place?
Need more ideas for An American Marriage book club questions or any other book your club discusses? Check out Book Riot’s Book Club Discussion Questions. These 40 questions are great for any book.