Readers’ Responses to An American Marriage

 

The Women’s Prize for Fiction showcases great writing by women to everyone and we know that the winner of the 2019 Prize, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, is popular with readers, having been endorsed by Oprah and Obama!

In the summer months following the announcement of Tayari Jones as winner, we’ve enabled three very special reading groups to engage with An American Marriage, providing them with free books and reading guides to support their discussions.

Our first group is the Pre-School Parent Book Club, a daytime book club for the parents of young children who like to relax (when given the chance!) with a good book. Based in the children’s area of Wallington Library in south London, this unique book club was set up seven years ago by librarian and mother of two, Stella Chevalier, to reduce parental isolation and support parent readers, giving them an attainable book club to join, support their reading for pleasure, their wellbeing and parental literacy – many were unable to join or maintain evening book clubs with juggling the needs of small children. Meeting in the children’s library means that family reading can continue before and after meetings allowing the pre-schoolers to be around and read their books whilst the parents discuss theirs. Members can then make the most of their library visit, borrowing books for the whole family. Members are seen as parent reading role models to their pre-schoolers, promoting the importance and benefits of reading as a family.

The group commented,

“It felt like a privilege to be given the opportunity to be involved with reading the winning book from a book award. This made the reading experience a more active experience and an enjoyable mental ‘workout’ …. it was an honour and something just for us, that our opinions on this book would be considered and taken into account. This made us feel more confident in myself and our individual opinions, too. Discussion with the group touched on wider themes as well as the couple in the marriage, so it made us think further and deeper. This is what is great about belonging to a book club like this, it brings discussion with others, which is lovely.”

Our second group is the Prince Philip Hospital Library Book Group, from Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, made up of staff from all walks of life that work for Hywel Dda University Health Board. Members tend to join the book club to get more reading in their lives as they’ve either stopped reading completely, or are in a reading rut and coming to book club makes them read things they otherwise wouldn’t. The group said of the impact being selected as a Women’s Prize 2019 Readers’ Group,

“We have been exposed to new books and different cultures to our own by being involved with the Women’s Prize. We’ve also been made aware that there are many books written by women that we really should be reading, which increased our summer reading lists for our holidays. We had some pro-feminist discussion around this as well, we felt it was quite a powerful thing to stand alongside female authors and give them the recognition that they all deserve. It also felt good that we were picked to take part, like a kind of recognition that we’re doing a good job with the book club and other people want to involve us in things.”

The members of the group, who give the main reasons for participating as cake and companionship, discussed how the world depicted in An American Marriage was so different to their own: “We live in an area where there are very few people of different cultures to ourselves, but at the same time we all work in the NHS where there are lots of various cultures working.”

And finally, Poole NHS Foundation Trust Reading Group is a reading club of midwives based in Dorset. The group used the reading and discussion of An American Marriage to connect with colleagues and improve certain members’ use of English!