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  • Elizabeth Garcia

Book Review: Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Updated: Dec 31, 2018

I'd been hearing a lot of buzz about Tayari Jones' recent novel An American Marriage, and became curious of her earlier works. I found Silver Sparrow at a local used bookstore and thought it was a great opportunity to become familiar with Jones' work. I've actually recently begun to read An American Marriage, and hope to have that review soon for you. But what I've noticed from reading both novels is that Jones' unique talent is to delve deeply into the murkiness of family dynamics within African American families while skirting the potential danger of pathologizing such families.

Regardless of your ethnic or racial background we can all relate to the complex relationships that exist in all families and that Jones' brings to light in her novels. In Silver Sparrow, the particular dynamics are between two families linked together by the same patriarch. One wife and daughter has the privilege of being the acknowledged family but also lives in ignorant bliss not knowing about the father's second secret family. The second wife and daughter live fully knowing about their second-class family status and are complicit in maintaining the secret.

The story is told from the perspectives of both daughters. Dana, the secret daughter, longs for the privilege of her sister Chaurisse, who gets to have public ownership of her father. Dana has to make up stories about who her father is for teachers and friends in school. Chaurisse, however, has her own issues feeling isolated and rejected from her peers as the heavy-set girl. Out of curiosity and seeking sisterly connection Dana befriends Chaurisse never revealing her true identity, until events take place that bring the reality to light.

While the simplistic view of this family would be of the patriarch as a conniving bigamist and the secret family as a disgrace, Jones makes all of the characters involved sympathetic ones. All you see is are individuals who make their decisions out of love, however problematic their notion of love may be.

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