Tayari Jones

Tayari Jones was the judge of Kore Press’ 2009 Short Fiction Award, and chose Teresa Stores’ “Frost Heaves” as the winning short fiction manuscript. Find Stores’ book here.

Tayari Jones is an African American author and winner of the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction. Born in 1970, she was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia and educated at Spelman College, the University of Iowa and Arizona State University. She started writing seriously at Spelman College, where she studied with Pearl Cleage, who published her first story, “Eugenics”, in Catalyst magazine. Jones went on to University of Iowa where she worked toward a Ph.D. in English, but she left after completing her masters degree. She also studied at The University of Georgia where she worked with Kevin Young and Judith Ortiz Cofer. She left UGA to enroll in the MFA program at Arizona State University where she worked with Ron Carlson and Jewell Parker Rhodes.

Her first novel, Leaving Atlanta, is a three-voiced coming of age story set against the backdrop of The Atlanta Child Murders of 1979-81. This novel, which was written while she was a graduate student at Arizona State University, is based on the experience as a child in Atlanta during that period. It won the 2003 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction. Aletha Spann of 30Nineteen Productions has purchased the film option for Leaving Atlanta. Jones herself, an Atlanta native, was a child during these murders. Two of her fifth grade classmates, Yusef Bell and Terry Pugh, were students at Oglethorpe Elementary School. Her second novel, The Untelling, is also set in Atlanta. This novel is the story of a woman seeking to overcome the trauma of her past. The book has been described as a “woman’s novel” because it deals with issues such as infertility. It was awarded the Lillian C. Smith Award for New Voices.

Tayari Jones has taught creative writing at The University of Illinois and also at George Washington University, where she served as the Jenny McKean Moore Writer in Washington. She is now a member of the MFA faculty at the Newark Campus of Rutgers University.