Tayari Jones was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1970. She studied at the University of Iowa and Arizona State University. She started writing at Spelman College, where she met author Pearl Cleage, who helped her publish her first story »Eugenics« in »Catalyst Magazine«. She considers the first African American Nobel Laureate in Literature, Toni Morrison, as her literary model.
In her debut novel »Leaving Atlanta« (2002), which Jones wrote while studying at Arizona State University, she tells a three-part coming-of-age story against the backdrop of the Atlanta Child Murders from 1979 to 1981 and incorporates her own childhood experiences into the story. Jonesʼ novel won the 2003 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction. The plot of her second novel »The Untelling« (2005) also takes place in Atlanta and follows a soul-searching young woman as she copes with the loss of important members of her family while building her own family in her mid-twenties. The book won the Lillian Smith Book Award. »Silver Sparrow« (2011), Jones’ third novel, is about a man who is torn between his two families living in the same city: he has one acknowledged daughter and a second, whose existence he wants to keep quite. Although both are the same age and they do not live far apart, their lives could not be more different: while the one daughter grows up in an ideal world, the other has to fight for recognition. It all comes to a head when the two families ultimately meet. Jones celebrated her greatest success to date with her fourth novel, »An American Marriage« (2018). It is about a young African American couple whose life falls apart when the husband is arrested for a crime he did not commit. Jones tells this story from different perspectives – first from Roy and Celestial themselves, later, friends of the couple add two more versions of the story. As a result, Jones refrains from explicitly taking sides and leaves it up to the reader to draw their own conclusions. »The romance novel is also a political novel about ongoing racial discrimination in the United States. And that is the strength of this novel: The author fully focuses on her characters. Their feelings are real« (SRF 2 Kultur). The book was selected for Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club in 2018 and won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019.
Jones teaches at Emory University’s College of Arts and Sciences. After several years in New York City, she now lives back in her hometown.