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Oprah Picks Iowa Grad’s New Tome for Book Club

IOWA CITY – Tayari Jones, a University of Iowa graduate, received a literary blessing Tuesday: her latest book, “An American Marriage,” was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as her latest book club selection.

Winfrey announced her selection of Jones’ latest book for the Oprah Book Club in a video posted on her Facebook and Twitter pages Tuesday morning.

“An American Marriage” was released Tuesday. The novel is the fourth book written by Jones, who graduated from UI with a Master of Arts in English in 1994.

According to USA Today, “An American Marriage” illustrates the life of newlyweds Celestial and Roy, professional African-Americans living in Atlanta. Things go horrifically wrong for the couple when Roy is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit.

Winfrey said in her Tuesday morning video that the book “redefines the traditional American love story.”

“I think you will come away with greater empathy and understanding, and even if you don’t, it’s just a great read,” Winfrey said.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Jones said she took years to complete the book while she was a research fellow at Harvard University. She knew her next book would deal with the criminal justice system, but she couldn’t find the inspiration. While visiting Atlanta, she overheard an argument between a couple.

“And the woman said, ‘You know you wouldn’t have waited for me for seven years,’” Jones recalled. “And the man shot back, ‘This wouldn’t have happened to you in the first place.’ And I thought, ‘He’s right and she’s also right.’ And that’s when I knew I had a novel, when I had a conflict between two people and both of them are right.”

Jan Weissmiller, co-owner of Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City, called the selection of “An American Marriage” by Winfrey “wonderful news,” adding that Jones had appeared for a reading at Prairie Lights in 2011 for her third book, “Silver Sparrow.” Her latest novel has received glowing reviews from many respected authors, most notably Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon.

Oprah’s Book Club started in 1996 when Winfrey was on television with “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and ended in 2011 when the show ended. Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 started in 2012.

The book club has helped both literary masters, such as Cormac McCarthy and Colson Whitehead, and first-time novelists, like UI Writers’ Workshop graduate Ayana Mathis, reach a much wider audience.

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