As anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows, I'm a fan of novelist Tayari Jones. I read and raved about her first two novels, Leaving Atlanta and The Untelling. I follow her blog ardently. I admire her, not only as an author but as someone who makes it her business to encourage and mentor young writers, particularly people of color, women, LGBT folks, working-class writers, everyone, in other words, who doesn't get much encouragement from the literary establishment. I have it on good authority that she's a great teacher, too, tough as all get-out in that way great teachers have of dragging the best out of you, not letting you settle for less, and then when the best emerges giving you all the strokes you deserve.
Back to her writing. It's superb. However, from my vantage point, as I belabor constantly hereabouts, that's not enough. I require something more from fiction, something beyond beautifully crafted sentences. I require engagement, some meaningful level of grappling with social and political issues, with reality, and I mean more substantial reality than kitchen-table talk or interpersonal angst. Tayari Jones' work engages with the world. I don't know if she thinks of herself as a political writer, and most reviews of her work don't characterize her that way, and that's cool, in my book you don't have to be a Political Writer to be a political writer, see what I mean? You have to contend in some way with the realities of life in this society (or whatever society you're writing about), and she does so with great skill and insight.
So yay! She's got a new novel out! Silver Sparrow, just released by Algonquin.
And yay--I'm going to the book launch Wednesday night at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn. Reading, Signing, Frolicking, as it's described on the author's website, where you can find the other dates in her book tour. I'm bringing some friends, and we're going to try to get there in time to find seats, which might be hard because I have a feeling it'll be a full house. No matter. I'll be glad to stand.
In fact, I'll be sitting much of the next day, on a plane as Teresa and I fly to Texas to spend an extended holiday weekend with her family. Which means this is probably the last post for at least a week, probably more. I probably won't get to read Silver Sparrow until some time after we return--I don't think I'll take it on the trip because I don't want to start it on the plane only to be ripped away from it for the better part of a week visiting with family--but I'll be happy knowing it's waiting for me back home in Queens.
Update: I attended and maximally enjoyed the book launch on May 25. It was packed, it was exciting, and Tayari was incredibly thrilling. She's not only a great writer but a great reader, and so smart, and so funny, and the only reason I'm not mentioning that she's also gorgeous and charming and charismatic is because that would be against my principles since all that should matter is the art...anyway, it was a great, I'm so glad I went, and I'm looking forward to reading her book very soon.
Now I'm back from six days in Texas, or rather inside the air conditioning of Texas, since it was way too hot to step outside. It was a lovely time. But I ate way too much, and especially way too much meat--yep, when in Texas--so now it's back to being sensible. And to work. I'll return with new lit talk as soon as I can.