Tayari Jones was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia where she spent most of her childhood with the exception of the one year she and her family spent in Nigeria. Although she has not lived in her hometown for over a decade, much of her writing centers on the urban south. “Although I now live in the northeast,” she explains, “my imagination lives in Atlanta.”
Her first novel, Leaving Atlanta, is a coming of age story set during the city’s infamous child murders of 1979-81. Leaving Atlanta received several awards and accolades including the Hurston/Wright Award for Debut Fiction. It was named “Novel of the Year” by Atlanta Magazine and “Best Southern Novel of the Year,” by Creative Loafing Atlanta. The Atlanta Journal Constitution and The Washington Post both listed it as one of the best of 2002. Bookpage lists it among the best debuts of the decade.
Her second novel, The Untelling, published in 2005, is the story of a family struggling to overcome the aftermath of a fatal car accident. Upon the publication of The Untelling, Essence magazine called Jones, “a writer to watch.” The Atlanta Journal Constitution proclaims Jones to be “one of the best writers of her generation.”
Silver Sparrow, her third novel was published in 2011 by Algonquin Books. The Village Voice wrote that “Tayari Jones is fast defining black middle class Atlanta the way that Cheever did for Westchester.” The American Booksellers chose Silver Sparrow as the #1 Indie Next pick for June 2011.
A recipient of a Lifetime Acheivement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation,Tayari Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, The University of Iowa, and Arizona State University. She has taught at Prairie View A&M University, East Tennessee State University, The University of Illinois and George Washington University. In addition, she has led workshops in Portugal, Ghana, Uganda, and Brazil. Currently, she is an Associate Professor in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University, where she was awarded with a Board of Trustees Award for Scholarly Excellence, the Presidential Fellowship for Teaching Excellence, a Leader in Faculty Diversity Award. Her work has been supported by The National Endowment for the Arts and The United States Artists Foundation and the arts councils of Arizona and Illinois. She spent the 2011-12 academic year at Harvard University as a Radcliffe Institute Fellow, researching her forthcoming novel, Dear History.