The author of Silver Sparrow, this year’s Big Read Peoria Reads! selection, Tayari Jones, will give two keynote presentations to Peorians in February.
On Thursday, February 23 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Peoria Public Library Lincoln Branch and again on Saturday, February 25 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at Peoria Public Library North Branch, Tayari Jones will read excerpts from her book, talk about the story and her writing with the public. The presentations are free and open to the public.
During her visit Ms. Jones will also meet with students at Peoria High School and at Common Place Family Learning Center.
“My father, James Witherspoon is a bigamist,” is the opening line of Silver Sparrow, a novel written by Tayari Jones that unveils a breathtaking story about a man’s deception, a family’s complicity, and the two teenage girls caught in the middle.
Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta during the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon’s families—the public one and the secret one. When Witherspoon’s daughters from each family meet, they form a friendship, but only one of them knows they are sisters. It is a relationship destined to explode when secrets are revealed and illusions shattered. As Jones explores the backstories of her rich and flawed characters, she also reveals the joy, and the destruction, they brought to each other’s lives.
At the heart of it all are two girls whose lives are at stake, and like the best writers, Jones portrays the fragility of her characters with raw authenticity as they seek love, demand attention, and try to imagine themselves as women.
Tayari Jones was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia where (with the exception of one year in Nigeria) she spent most of her childhood. Even though she has not lived in her hometown for more than a decade, most of her writing centers on the urban South. “Although I now live in the Northeast,” she explains, “my imagination lives in Atlanta.”
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. Library Journal, O Magazine, Slate and Salon all selected the novel among the best of the year. National media coverage of the book has included O Magazine, Vogue, Poets and Writers, and NPR’s All Things Considered, among other sources. In addition to being chosen by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association as an Honor Book, Silver Sparrow was nominated for an NAACP Image Award and the 2013 IMPAC Dublin International Literary Award.
A recipient of a Lifetime Achievement 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.
Peoria Reads! was a recipient of a grant to host the NEA Big Read in Peoria. A program of the National Endowment for the Arts, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Peoria Reads is one of 77 nonprofit organizations to receive a grant to host an NEA Big Read project between September 2016 and June 2017.
Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts and the agency is celebrating this milestone with events and activities through September 2016. Go to arts.gov/50th to enjoy art stories from around the nation, peruse Facts & Figures, and check out the anniversary timeline.
Arts Midwest promotes creativity, nurtures cultural leadership, and engages people in meaningful arts experiences, bringing vitality to Midwest communities and enriching people’s lives. Based in Minneapolis, Arts Midwest connects the arts to audiences throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. One of six non-profit regional arts organizations in the United States, Arts Midwest’s history spans more than 25 years. For more information, please visit artsmidwest.org.