An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: Reading Guide Answers

The following account won’t be for everyone but if you are a literacy geek and have read the book, then you may enjoy a bit of reading comprehension! Fifteen reading guide questions are included at the end of the book so I’ve whittled it down to a summarised few.

Do you feel that the title An American Marriage accurately represents the novel? Why or why not?

For the majority of the book I was unsure as to how the title matched the story. Upon finishing the novel I came to some conclusions as to how this could make sense.

When I think of the typical American show it defaults to largely white cast with added diversity. A Black majority/only cast is almost like the alternate America. Now I appreciate the title because Black people have and are a part of the country’s fabric so why shouldn’t they encompass its culture as a whole? It brings a sense of normalcy.

Furthermore, America has a history of being a superpower and concuting deals that favour its own terms. This was represented in Celestial and Andre’s treatment of Roy when he left prison. They were under the arrogant impression that they would be able to dictate their new terms to Roy and that his opinion’s on the matter would be outdated. This is rather oppressive and to their lofty surprise he fought till he could come to his own conclusion about his life.

There are two father figures in Roy’s life: Big Roy who raised him from a baby and Walter who taught him to survive in prison. Do they deserve equal credit?

The majority of the world would agree that any male can make a baby but only a man can be a father, whether they live in the family home or not. Walter was a male who didn’t develop his convictions regarding responsibility. I assume he didn’t mean to get Olive pregnant and when he was yet again faced with the task of raising a child, felt it was easier to run. Big Roy on the other hand met Olive and saw the opportunity to make an impact on their lives, sacrificing himself in the process. I feel Walter found it easier, and was more inclined, to take Roy under his wing in prison as they were both adults and he realised he could reason with him. He evaded the labour in raising him and was probably glad that he turned out to be a mostly decent man. At this point in their journey he could assume the role of a guide as it was a lifestyle he was well versed in.

It can be concluded that they both deserve some credit in contributing to Roy’s life. Walter could have continued to neglect Roy but chose to protect him. However it can be argued had he not met him in prison, he would not have made the effort to seek him out otherwise. Consequently Big Roy deserves the most praise as he demonstrated the greatest sacrifice in Little Roy’s life. However, as long as there’s life there’s a chance to make a change. Walter enabled himself to amend a fraction of his fatherhood and be a constructive influence for Little Roy.

Andre insists he doesn’t owe Roy an apology for the way his relationship with Celestial has changed. Agree?

Andre has loved Celestial since childhood and finally got his way her while her husband was in prison. He probably made no attempt to be in relationship in the years before she got with Roy as he thought the moment had passed and their love stopped at friendship. The way they finally kindled their lovers flame is not revealed however everyone had a choice to make and Celestial held the power to determine how it would materialise. If she had not entertained her feelings and remained as Roy’s wife, Andre’s hold could have diminished. He does not hold the main responsibility for their affair as technically she could have got with anyone, she would be the only one to answer to her husband in the end. However, Andre knew the pair and their situation personally so definitely should have apologised for romancing a woman who didn’t choose him in the first place.


A look back on our coonery

A rush of old tweets from influencers have once again resurfaced in which they made colourist remarks. Granted many of them have evolved and are sorry for the hurt they maybe didn’t realise they caused seven years ago, but unfortunately the devaluing of black bodies has not been obliterated.

Remember when ‘blick’ was a common slang word to describe very dark skinned people? I used to say it too and it was all fun and games, until one English lesson in year eight. Our white teacher furiously declared that anyone who used that word, no matter the colour, would be punished as it was racist and had roots in the apartheid. That word has mostly gone out of fashion but it did make me think.

I am clearly a dark skinned woman and thankfully I cannot remember a time when I have been directly berated for my colour. Looking back however, I can see where I could have been overlooked. I used to be glad that I wasn’t made a target like some of my darker skinned classmates and that thinking alone is problematic. Worse than that, our ignorance towards each other made it possible for a white boy to be brave enough to embarrass another pupil in front of everyone! Although we didn’t make a lot of noise about this sort of BULLYING in those days, it doesn’t discount that the victims were greatly affected. If I could redo my school years with the person I am today I would confidently call people out. It doesn’t make sense to blame that way of talking on age. A teenager knows what words and phrases have the potential to be horrible, it’s almost a disservice to think you were that dumb. Yes we say stupid and hurtful things in our immaturity, but it’s better we realise that the way we thought was wrong rather than use age and society as an excuse.

Cancel culture and constant rehashing of the past, especially for those who have evolved for the better, isn’t profitable. There is no need to constantly say sorry and be at the mercy of the world. Nevertheless there are always consequences for our actions and human nature will make sure you don’t forget it.