#OCLSReads For Black History Month

February 1, 2019 | Jaylen Christie
OCLSReads for Black History Month

Try as I might, I simply cannot recall an instance when I was ever not reading a book. Reading is one of my favorite forms of relaxation, and with it being Black History Month, I believe it’s a superb way to celebrate the occasion. While I am unquestionably a proud proponent for diversity and inclusion with people of all races and backgrounds, I want to take a moment to focus on black authors, one specifically. In honor of Black History Month, I have a novel that I proudly propose you check out: An American Marriage.

Released in early 2018, An American Marriage, written by the amazing Tayari Jones, is one of my favorite novels. It tells the story of Celestial and Roy, two young black newlyweds that really have it together. She’s a brilliant artist and he’s an executive on the rise. However, when Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years for a crime he didn’t commit, their marriage is put to the ultimate test. The question becomes can Celestial wait on her husband, or will she succumb to temptation in the form of Andre—her best friend and best man at their wedding.

"Did I mention this book was juicy?"

Perchance that’s the reason why it was selected for Oprah’s Book Club. Word on the street is that Oprah is also adapting it for a film as well—and who could blame her? An American Marriage was an instant New York Times bestseller and many readers found the book to be moving. For yours truly, these were characters that I felt I had met in college or at a backyard barbecue. While I used the word juicy to describe this book, in all honesty, it is much more than that. Jones doesn’t shy away from touchy topics such as how some people may view those with a chocolate complexion, and she also isn’t afraid to explore what can potentially happen to a marriage when one is behind bars. Given the current state of our political climate and the nation’s disproportionate targeting of black men, reading about a brother being locked up may evoke a keen sense of sadness or regret and can certainly strike a nerve. And while all of that is immensely powerful stuff, what I found the most entrancing about the book was that its characters could not fit a certain mold. Its protagonists – Celestial and Roy – operated in a gray area with motivations that ranged from honorable to egotistical. I found myself switching teams multiple times.

Jaylen Christie quote

From a writing standpoint, Jones does phenomenal work. A portion of the novel is told through the letters that Celestial and Roy are writing one another during his sentence. Truthfully speaking, there were moments where I teared up, but I soldiered on because I could not put the book down. I read a lot of amazing books in 2018 from a lot of spectacularly diverse authors, but An American Marriage was one of my top five favorite novels from last year and for good reason.

So, have I piqued your interest regarding what to read for Black History Month? I certainly hope so! The Orange County Library System has An American Marriage in various formats and all you have to do is check it out. I’m personally of the opinion that a celebration of Black History is worth 365 days, so in the event that you cannot get around to checking out the novel this month, do yourself a favor and add it to your 2019 TBR list. It’s definitely a book you won’t mind tying the knot with.


Jaylen Christie

As a writer, actor, motivational speaker and public relations professional, Jaylen Christie finds joy in expanding what has essentially become a remarkably diverse résumé. When not working as Director of Public Relations at Moxē, an integrated marketing agency, he enjoys volunteering in the community and serving on the Board of Directors for the Friends of the Library at OCLS. He is a 2008 winner of the William Randolph Hearst Award for outstanding editorial writing.

You can follow Jaylen on Twitter @thesuperflynerd.

Content written by guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of OCLS and its staff.

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