The Jane’s Stories Press Foundation is proud to announce the winner of the 2019 Clara Johnson Award for Women’s Literature is Tayari Jones for her bestselling tour de force An American Marriage. As winner of the award, Jones will receive a cash award to be presented at a special reception later this year.
Described by its publisher Algonquin Books as “a captivating love story that is also a clear-eyed look at the effects of injustice in contemporary American life,” An American Marriage tells the story of a young black executive imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. As his absence drags on, Roy’s wife Celestial must make difficult decisions about life, her marriage, and her future. Both must confront the past before moving forward.
Johnson Award judges were impressed by the literary mastery of Jones’s novel and its rich character development, particularly the fullness of its female characters. Judges also noted the social significance of the work as it examines the impacts of unjust incarceration not only on the incarcerated but also on family and friends. In addition, the judges remarked at the depiction of the deeply intertwined destinies of men and women in black communities and how pervasive a trap racism presents even to those of socio-economic means.
Since being nominated for The Johnson Award, An American Marriage has won the Women’s Fiction Prize from the UK. It has also been an Oprah Book Club selection and a New York Times bestseller.
The Johnson Award is named in honor of Clara Johnson, one of the first editors of the Jane’s Stories Anthologies. The award was established in 2018 to honor women-authored literature that captures the essence of Johnson in being “groundbreaking, purposeful, bold, excellent, and challenging to social constructs.”
Other finalists for the 2019 award were Devi S. Laskar for The Atlas of Reds and Blues, Gale Massey for The Girl from Blind River and Laura van den Berg for The Third Hotel.
Jane's Stories Press Foundation is an international, nonprofit organization that nurtures emerging and established women writers and encourages the inclusion of women’s voices in all their diversity in the publishing industry. Since 2001, JSPF has offered literary resources, education, friendship, and publishing opportunities for women.
Learn more about Tayari and the other finalists here.
About Clara Johnson
Johnson, who died in 2017, was one of a handful of women who worked as chemists in the defense industry during WWII. After the war, she worked at the US Department of Agriculture Illinois Northern Regional Research Lab in Peoria, IL, for 40 years.
During her life, Johnson was active in the League of Women Voters, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and other activist groups working for social justice and the inclusion of all voices in our democracy. She managed the Illinois National Organization for Women (NOW) office during and after the ERA ratification campaign in that state.
A self-published memoirist, Johnson was a co-founder of Prairie Moon Feminist Bookstore in Arlington Heights, IL. As one of the first editors of the Jane’s Stories anthologies by women, she pushed for “stories with a purpose.” This award was founded in her memory in 2018 to honor her leadership and dedication to telling our purposeful stories.