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impression that they would be able to dictate their new terms to Roy and that his opinion’s on the matter would be outdated.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.


Queenie: Respect isn’t unreasonable

I hadn’t read a book properly for ages, so quarantine is a perfect reason to cram a lot of imagination into my day. Like a novice I had only just finished Malorie Blackman’s ‘Noughts & Crosses’, so reading a book from an author amongst the new wave of female Black British author’s ( who is also from Jamaican descent wood woop!) was a logical step. Thank you Candice Carty-Williams! I’m very glad I took a chance on the rave reviews, Queenie is a great story and one that needed to be told.

On my first introduction to the title character I found her quite agitating, her neediness and limp rationality of life made me want to shake her. However, like everyone else in the world Queenie is a multi-faceted human. Even though we try to portray ourselves as unproblematic beings with only two sides, strong & strong in vulnerability. But what about those awkward edges and our personal ‘-isims?’ Queenie laid hers shockingly bare and although she didn’t want to it does require more strength and gives power to her name. I suppose that’s why she was easy to pick on- guilty. I also grew annoyed when she insisted on being desperate for her ex-boyfriend Tom. Rejection is a painful lesson and its good that she saw her faults however, he could have done more to stand up for her. Not all of her desires were UNREASONABLE.

One of my preferred elements of the book was how the black female characters were recognisable in my own life. My favourite was Kyazike as she is an amalgamation of myself and other friends. I commended her fierceness, authenticity and loyalty. I was ready to back her beef when she wanted to duppy certain man! To the untrained eye (and in my opinion) she is a caricature of a young black female Londoner, but I saw as a woman who was simply herself and we should not be apprehensive of this quality.

Furthermore I appreciated the growth of Queenie’s grandma. Many old Caribbean’s diminish the woes of our generation as they don’t feel it compares to their own traumas. Therefore I was glad she made the step to even believe in mental illness and that our version of suffering is valid.

Simply put, we as readers are put in the mind of a young woman as she combats and embraces her life. I’d need a podcast to scratch the surface of the book but hopefully you understand the reason this story normalises Black women’s lives and the different shades it comes in.