Tayari Jones to Receive Lifetime Achievement In the Fine Arts Award

Carla Capizzi

By Carla Capizzi

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF) has recognized Tayari Jones with its 2012 “Lifetime Achievement Award in the Fine Arts” for her “brilliant literary contributions.” She is one of only three artists who will be recognized Sept. 19 at the 16th annual Celebration of Leadership in Fine Arts in Washington, D.C. This year’s other honorees are Dr. Bobby Jones, gospel music artist, and theatrical director Kenny Leon.

Tayari Jones, who teaches graduates students in the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program at Rutgers University, Newark, is the author of three critically acclaimed novels.

Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New York Times, Callaloo, MacSweeney’s, The Believer, New Stories From The South, and other publications. Jones also has received fellowships from organizations including The National Endowment for the Arts, The United States Artists Foundation, and the arts councils of Illinois and Arizona.  Jones spent the 2011-12 academic year at Harvard University as a Radcliffe Institute Fellow, researching her fourth novel.

After learning of her award, Jones stated, “The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation has consistently shown a commitment to supporting the arts without boundaries-- recognizing art as a part of our everyday lives and nurturing the future by providing scholarships to young people who are artistically gifted.  It is an honor to be invited to Washington, D.C. to accept this award. I look forward to joining hands with the CBCF as they continue all their important and meaningful work.”

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy, research and educational institute founded in 1976. Its mission is to advance the global black community by developing leaders, informing policy and educating the public. It aims to help improve the socioeconomic circumstances of African Americans and other underserved communities.

Philip Yeagle, interim chancellor and professor at Rutgers in Newark, noted, “This honor for one of our star scholars is richly deserved.  Tayari Jones is a critical literary voice on the national scene, bringing life out of words on a page as no other.  This campus and Rutgers as a whole celebrates her honor with joy.”

The Atlanta Journal Constitution has proclaimed Jones to be "one of the best writers of her generation.” The Village Voice says that “Jones has done for Black middle class Atlanta what Cheever does for Westchester.”

Jones’s first novel, Leaving Atlanta, is a coming of age story set during the city’s infamous child murders of 1979-81. Jones herself was in the fifth grade when 30 African American children were murdered from the neighborhoods near her home and school.  Leaving Atlanta received many awards and accolades including the Hurston/Wright Award for Debut Fiction. It was named “Novel of the Year” by Atlanta Magazine, “Best Southern Novel of the Year,” by Creative Loafing Atlanta. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Washington Post both listed it as one of the best of 2002. A movie version of Leaving Atlanta is in production.

It was the publication of her second novel, The Untelling, that led Essence magazine to name Jones "a writer to watch."  In 2005, The Southern Regional Council and the University of Georgia Libraries awarded Jones the Lillian C. Smith Award for New Voices.

Her third novel, Silver Sparrow, sealed her reputation as a major author. 

A long list of literary honors has followed the book’s 2011 publication. Atlanta Magazine book critic Teresa Weaver selected Silver Sparrow as one of the top five fiction titles of the year.  Library Journal named it one of 2012’s top 10. The audio version of Silver Sparrow was selected by eMusic as one of the top audio books of 2011, and Silver Sparrow was named to Mosaic Literary Magazine’s “Best of 2011″ list.  O Magazine named it one of its 2011 “Favorite Things,” and The Atlanta Journal Constitution selected Silver Sparrow as 2011′s “Best of The South.” Silver Sparrow was nominated for NAACP Image Awards and named a 2012 Honor Book by The Black Caucus of the American Library Association; the Texas Library Association named Silver Sparrow to its “Lariat List” for 2012. Jones has just received a third nomination for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.

Jones, a graduate of Spelman College, the University of Iowa and Arizona State University, served on the advisory board of SheWrites.com ; she recently completed her term as vice chair of the Board of Directors of Girls Write Now, a non-profit organization serving New York City teenagers.

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