American Marriage by Tayari Jones wins $35K US Aspen Words Literary Prize

Brother by David Chariandy was also a finalist for the annual prize for fiction that highlights contemporary social issues and change.
Tayari Jones is the author of An American Marriage. (Nina Subin, Thorndike Press)

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones has won the 2019 Aspen Words Literary Prize. The winner was announced on Thursday at the Morgan Library in New York City.

Five finalists, including Canada Reads 2019 novel Brother by Vancouver-based author David Chariandy, were up for the annual $35,000 US (approx. $46,648 Cdn) prize. 

Brother was a contender on Canada's annual "battle of the books" in March, where it was defended by actor, model and television personality Lisa Ray.

Now in its second year, the Aspen Words Literary Prize recognizes "an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture."

An American Marriage explores the myth of the American Dream through the lens of race and class. It tells the story of a young couple whose lives are torn apart when Roy, a black man, is incarcerated for a crime he did not commit.

The other Aspen finalists included Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Gun Love by Jennifer Clement and There, There by Tommy Orange.

Works of fiction published by an American publisher are eligible for the prize, regardless of the author's nationality or residency. The prize is administered by the Washington, D.C.-based think tank, The Aspen Institute. 

Last year's winner was Mohsin Hamid for his novel Exit West.


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