|Publisher:||Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill|
|Product dimensions:||5.54(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.96(d)|
About the Author
Tayari Jones is the author of four novels, including Silver Sparrow, The Untelling, and Leaving Atlanta. Jones holds degrees from Spelman College, Arizona State University, and the University of Iowa. A winner of numerous literary awards, she is a professor of creative writing at Emory University. Visit her website at www.tayarijones.com.
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SILVER SPARROWa novel
By Tayari Jones
Algonquin Books of Chapel HillCopyright © 2011 Tayari Jones
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Secret
My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist. He was already married ten years when he first clamped eyes on my mother. In 1968, she was working at the gift- wrap counter at Davison's downtown when my father asked her to wrap the carving knife he had bought his wife for their wedding anniversary. Mother said she knew that something wasn't right between a man and a woman when the gift was a blade. I said that maybe it means there was a kind of trust between them. I love my mother, but we tend to see things a little bit differently. The point is that James's marriage was never hidden from us. James is what I call him. His other daughter, Chaurisse, the one who grew up in the house with him, she calls him Daddy, even now.
When most people think of bigamy, if they think of it at all, they imagine some primitive practice taking place on the pages of National Geographic. In Atlanta, we remember one sect of the back-to-Africa movement that used to run bakeries in the West End. Some people said it was a cult, others called it a cultural movement. Whatever it was, it involved four wives for each husband. The bakeries have since closed down, but sometimes we still see the women, resplendent in white, trailing six humble paces behind their mutual husband. Even in Baptist churches, ushers keep smelling salts on the ready for the new widow confronted at the wake by the other grieving widow and her stair-step kids. Undertakers and judges know that it happens all the time, and not just between religious fanatics, traveling salesmen, handsome sociopaths, and desperate women.
It's a shame that there isn't a true name for a woman like my mother, Gwendolyn. My father, James, is a bigamist. That is what he is. Laverne is his wife. She found him first and my mother has always respected the other woman's squatter's rights. But was my mother his wife, too? She has legal documents and even a single Polaroid proving that she stood with James Alexander Witherspoon Junior in front of a judge just over the state line in Alabama. However, to call her only his "wife" doesn't really explain the full complexity of her position.
There are other terms, I know, and when she is tipsy, angry, or sad, Mother uses them to describe herself: concubine, whore, mistress, consort. There are just so many, and none are fair. And there are nasty words, too, for a person like me, the child of a person like her, but these words were not allowed in the air of our home. "You are his daughter. End of story." If this was ever true it was in the first four months of my life, before Chaurisse, his legitimate daughter, was born. My mother would curse at hearing me use that word, legitimate, but if she could hear the other word that formed in my head, she would close herself in her bedroom and cry. In my mind, Chaurisse is his real daughter. With wives, it only matters who gets there first. With daughters, the situation is a bit more complicated.
It matters what you called things. Surveil was my mother's word. If he knew, James would probably say spy, but that is too sinister. We didn't do damage to anyone but ourselves as we trailed Chaurisse and Laverne while they wound their way through their easy lives. I had always imagined that we would eventually be asked to explain ourselves, to press words forward in our own defense. On that day, my mother would be called upon to do the talking. She is gifted with language and is able to layer difficult details in such a way that the result is smooth as water. She is a magician who can make the whole world feel like a dizzy illusion. The truth is a coin she pulls from behind your ear.
Maybe mine was not a blissful girlhood. But is anyone's? Even people whose parents are happily married to each other and no one else, even these people have their share of unhappiness. They spend plenty of time nursing old slights, rehashing squabbles. So you see, I have something in common with the whole world.
Mother didn't ruin my childhood or anyone's marriage. She is a good person. She prepared me. Life, you see, is all about knowing things. That is why my mother and I shouldn't be pitied. Yes, we have suffered, but we never doubted that we enjoyed at least one peculiar advantage when it came to what really mattered: I knew about Chaurisse; she didn't know about me. My mother knew about Laverne, but Laverne was under the impression that hers was an ordinary life. We never lost track of that basic and fundamental fact.
When did I first discover that although I was an only child, my father was not my father and mine alone? I really can't say. It's something that I've known for as long as I've known that I had a father. I can only say for sure when I learned that this type of double-duty daddy wasn't ordinary.
I was about five years old, in kindergarten, when the art teacher, Miss Russell, asked us to draw pictures of our families. While all the other children scribbled with their crayons or soft-leaded pencils, I used a blue-ink pen and drew James, Chaurisse, and Laverne. In the background was Raleigh, my father's best friend, the only person we knew from his other life. I drew him with the crayon labeled "Flesh" because he is really light- skinned. This was years and years ago, but I still remember. I hung a necklace around the wife's neck. I gave the girl a big smile, stuffed with square teeth. Near the left margin, I drew my mother and me standing by ourselves. With a marker, I blacked in Mother's long hair and curving lashes. On my own face, I drew only a pair of wide eyes. Above, a friendly sun winked at all six of us.
The art teacher approached me from behind. "Now, who are these people you've drawn so beautifully?"
Charmed, I smiled up at her. "My family. My daddy has two wifes and two girls."
Cocking her head, she said, "I see."
I didn't think much more about it. I was still enjoying the memory of the way she pronounced beautifully. To this day, when I hear anyone say that word, I feel loved. At the end of the month, I brought all of my drawings home in a cardboard folder. James opened up his wallet, which he kept plump with two-dollar bills to reward me for my schoolwork. I saved the portrait, my masterpiece, for last, being as it was so beautifully drawn and everything.
My father picked the page up from the table and held it close to his face like he was looking for a coded message. Mother stood behind me, crossed her arms over my chest, and bent to place a kiss on the top of my head. "It's okay," she said.
"Did you tell your teacher who was in the picture?" James said.
I nodded slowly, the whole time thinking that I probably should lie, although I wasn't quite sure why.
"James," Mother said, "let's not make a molehill into a mountain. She's just a child."
"Gwen," he said, "this is important. Don't look so scared. I'm not going to take her out behind the woodshed." Then he chuckled, but my mother didn't laugh.
"All she did was draw a picture. Kids draw pictures."
"Go on in the kitchen, Gwen," James said. "Let me talk to my daughter."
My mother said, "Why can't I stay in here? She's my daughter, too."
"You are with her all the time. You tell me I don't spend enough time talking to her. So now let me talk."
Mother hesitated and then released me. "She's just a little kid, James. She doesn't even know the ins and outs yet."
"Trust me," James said.
She left the room, but I don't know that she trusted him not to say something that would leave me wounded and broken-winged for life. I could see it in her face. When she was upset she moved her jaw around invisible gum. At night, I could hear her in her room, grinding her teeth in her sleep. The sound was like gravel under car wheels.
"Dana, come here." James was wearing a navy chauffeur's uniform. His hat must have been in the car, but I could see the ridged mark across his forehead where the hatband usually rested. "Come closer," he said.
I hesitated, looking to the space in the doorway where Mother had disappeared.
"Dana," he said, "you're not afraid of me, are you? you're not scared of your own father, are you?"
His voice sounded mournful, but I took it as a dare. "No, sir," I said, taking a bold step forward.
"Don't call me sir, Dana. I'm not your boss. When you say that, it makes me feel like an overseer."
I shrugged. Mother told me that I should always call him sir. With a sudden motion, he reached out for me and lifted me up on his lap. He spoke to me with both of our faces looking outward, so I couldn't see his expression.
"Dana, I can't have you making drawings like the one you made for your art class. I can't have you doing things like that. What goes on in this house between your mother and me is grown people's business. I love you. You are my baby girl, and I love you, and I love your mama. But what we do in this house has to be a secret, okay?"
"I didn't even draw this house."
James sighed and bounced me on his lap a little bit. "What happens in my life, in my world, doesn't have anything to do with you. You can't tell your teacher that your daddy has another wife. You can't tell your teacher that my name is James Witherspoon. Atlanta ain't nothing but a country town, and everyone knows everybody."
"Your other wife and your other girl is a secret?" I asked him.
He put me down from his lap, so we could look each other in the face. "No. You've got it the wrong way around. Dana, you are the one that's a secret."
Then he patted me on the head and tugged one of my braids. With a wink he pulled out his billfold and separated three two-dollar bills from the stack. He handed them over to me and I clamped them in my palm.
"Aren't you going to put them in your pocket?"
And for once, he didn't tell me not to call him that.
James took me by the hand and we walked down the hallway to the kitchen for dinner. I closed my eyes on the short walk because I didn't like the wallpaper in the hallway. It was beige with a burgundy pattern. When it had started peeling at the edges, I was accused of picking at the seams. I denied it over and over again, but Mother reported me to James on his weekly visit. He took off his belt and swatted me around the legs and up on my backside, which seemed to satisfy something in my mother.
In the kitchen my mother placed the bowls and plates on the glass table in silence. She wore her favorite apron that James brought back from New Orleans. On the front was a drawing of a crawfish holding a spatula aloft and a caption: DON'T MAKE ME POISON YOUR FOOD! James took his place at the head of the table and polished the water spots from his fork with his napkin. "I didn't lay a hand on her; I didn't even raise my voice. Did I?"
"No, sir." And this was entirely the truth, but I felt different than I had just a few minutes before when I'd pulled my drawing out of its sleeve. My skin stayed the same while this difference snuck in through a pore and attached itself to whatever brittle part forms my center. You are the secret. He'd said it with a smile, touching the tip of my nose with the pad of his finger.
My mother came around and picked me up under my arms and sat me on the stack of phone books in my chair. She kissed my cheek and fixed a plate with salmon croquettes, a spoon of green beans, and corn.
"Are you okay?"
James ate his meal, spooning honey onto a dinner roll when my mother said there would be no dessert. He drank a big glass of Coke.
"Don't eat too much," my mother said. "You'll have to eat again in a little while."
"I'm always happy to eat your food, Gwen. I'm always happy to sit at your table."
* * *
I don't know how I decided that my missing teeth were the problem, but I devised a plan to slide a folded piece of paper behind my top teeth to camouflage the pink space in the center of my smile. I was inspired by James, actually, who once told me how he put cardboard in his shoes when he was little to make up for the holes in the soles. The paper was soggy and the blue lines ran with my saliva.
Mother caught me in the middle of this process. She walked into my room and lay across my twin bed with its purple checked spread. She liked to do this, just lie across my bed while I played with my toys or colored in my notebooks, watching me like I was a television show. She always smelled good, like flowery perfume, and sometimes like my father's cigarettes.
"What are you doing, Petunia?"
"Don't call me Petunia," I said, partially because I didn't like the name and partially because I wanted to see if I could talk with the paper in my mouth. "Petunia is the name of a pig."
"Petunia is a flower," my mother said. "A pretty one."
"It's Porky Pig's girlfriend."
"That's meant to be a joke, a pretty name for a pig, you see?"
"A joke is supposed to be funny."
"It is funny. You are just in a bad mood. What're you doing with the paper?"
"I'm trying to put my teeth back," I said, while trying to rearrange the sodden wad.
This seemed obvious as I took in my own reflection along with my mother's in the narrow mirror attached to the top of my chest of drawers. Of course James wanted to keep me a secret. Who would love a girl with a gaping pink hole in the middle of her mouth? none of the other children in my kindergarten reading circle looked like I did. Surely my mother could understand this. She spent half an hour each night squinting at her skin before a magnifying mirror, applying swipes of heavy creams from Mary Kay. When I asked her what she was doing, she said, "I am improving my appearance. Wives can afford to let themselves go. Concubines must be vigilant."
Recalling it now, I know that she must have been drinking. Although I can't remember the moment so well, I know that just outside the frame was her glass of Asti Spumante, golden and busy with bubbles.
"I am improving my appearance." I hoped she would smile.
"Your appearance is perfect, Dana. You're five; you have beautiful skin, shiny eyes, and pretty hair."
"But no teeth," I said.
"You're a little girl. You don't need teeth."
"Yes, I do," I said quietly. "Yes, I do."
"Why? To eat corn on the cob? your teeth will grow back. There is lots of corn in your future, I promise."
"I want to be like that other girl," I said finally.
Mother had been lying across my bed, like a goddess on a chaise lounge, but when I said that she snapped up. "What other girl?"
"James's other girl."
"You can say her name," Mother said.
I shook my head. "Can't."
"Yes, you can. Just say it. Her name is Chaurisse."
"Stop it," I said, afraid that just saying my sister's name would unleash some terrible magic the way that saying "Bloody Mary" while staring into a pan of water would turn the liquid red and thick.
Mother rose from the bed and got down on her knees so we were the same height. As she pressed her hands down on my shoulders, traces of cigarette smoke lingered in her tumbly hair. I reached out for it.
"Her name is Chaurisse," my mother said again. "She's a little girl, just like you are."
"Please stop saying it," I begged her. "Stop it before something happens."
My mother hugged me to her chest. "What did your daddy say to you the other day? Tell me what he said."
"Nothing," I whispered.
"Dana, you can't lie to me, okay? I tell you everything and you tell me everything. That's the only way we can pull this off, baby. We have to keep the information moving between us." She shook me a little bit. Not enough to scare me, just enough to get my attention.
"He said I was a secret."
My mother pulled me into a close hug, crisscrossing her arms across my back and letting her hair hang around me like a magic curtain. I will never forget the smell of her hugs.
"That motherfucker," she said. "I love him, but I might have to kill him one day."
Excerpted from SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones Copyright © 2011 by Tayari Jones. Excerpted by permission of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
“Jones is a master, and Silver Girl is a revelation, alive with meaning, heartbreak, and hope.”
— Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Lark and Termite
“Silver Sparrow brings to mind John Irving in the ways it makes an epic story out of ordinary lives. The good, the bad, and the ugly all happen in this marvelously moving tale. Read this book! I can’t say it any more plainly than that.” —Victor LaValle, author of Big Machine
“Jones is a master, and Silver Girl is a revelation, alive with meaning, heartbreak, and hope.” — Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Lark and Termite
“[An] expansive third novel…Jones effectively blends the sisters’ varied, flawed perspectives as the characters struggle with presumptions of family and the unwieldy binds of love and identity.”—Booklist
“Silver Sparrow brings to mind John Irving in the ways it makes an epic story out of ordinary lives. The good, the bad, and the ugly all happen in this marvelously moving tale. Read this book! I can’t say it any more plainly than that.” —Victor LaValle, author of Big Machine
“Jones is a master, and Silver Girl is a revelation, alive with meaning, heartbreak, and hope.” — Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Lark and Termite
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
With the opening line, "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist," Tayari Jones skillfully pulls the reader into the world of two sisters: Dana and Chaurisse. Told in first person by each of the sisters, Silver Sparrow is absolutely remarkable. I realize that it doesn't come out until May, but, trust me, you're going to want to pre-order it. As James' outside child, Dana lives in a world where she's limited by a sister with whom she can't communicate. The product of James' "marriage" to her mother, Gwen, Dana can't work at Six Flags, can't attend a summer program, can't do this and can't do this. Why? Simply because there's a chance that in a big town that can be small like Atlanta, there's a chance that she could meet her sister. While Dana is well aware of Chaurisse's existence, Chaurisse is ignorant of Dana's. Chaurisse is the product of James' marriage to Laverne. She is actually the daughter for whom I feel the most pity. She is not the pretty daughter and nothing about her stands out. Her parents married at extremely young ages and seem to be together more out of familiarity than anything else. While Dana's mother plays an active part in her life, I almost get the impression that Chaurisse is overlooked by both parents. Not only is she overlooked by her parents, she's overlooked by most people outside of their home as well. Used to being overlooked, Chaurisse has a name for girls that seem to sparkle and shine; silver. Silver girls are naturally beautiful, but don't mind using makeup to enhance their beauty. Not only are they beautiful on the outside, they're beautiful on the inside. And because birds of feather flock together, they associate with other silver girls, not regular nobodies like her. But one day in the drugstore, Chaurisse meets a silver girl who does want to be her friend and their friendship will be life changing. It was simply gut-wrenching at times to watch Dana be denied simple pleasures. Can you imagine living a life less than what you deserve because your father is a selfish man? As I kept reading, I repeatedly asked of James, "what kind of coward are you that you would ask a child to carry this burden?" Jones leads the reader through this world, allowing them to get so invested in the character that when she acts out, it feels justified. And when she's in pain, it's only natural for the reader to empathize. What did you like about this book? Tayari Jones weaves words together like a beautiful tapestry. I honestly had to put the book down the closer I got to the end because I wasn't ready to be done. Often in stories like this, readers feel the need to choose a side, someone has to be right and someone has to be wrong. It's virtually impossible to do that here. What didn't you like about this book? I really wanted James to be held more accountable for his actions. I wanted him to be punished and, with the exception of Dana, it seemed that all of the women were willing to forgive him. What could the author do to improve this book? Through Dana and Chaurisse, the reader learns the mother's opinions on what's going on and get glimpses into their thoughts. James felt like a character on the fringe, even though his actions were responsible for the drama happening. I would have loved to hear the story from his voice, in addition to the girls.
Jones' Silver Sparow failed to disappoint me. Written beautifully she introduces the reader to each character and then graciously invites us to know them intimately. The complexities of each character's personality and their relationships with one another are laid before us carefully and with sensitivity. One can feel the raw emotion from their life experiences and can understand how each became who they are. While there's certainly pain in each character's life, themes of love, commitment, and a desire to do the right thing persist throughout the story. Jones has written about a very complicated situation as if she has experienced each perspective herself. Just excellent.
The story contains a topic that is known no matter color or station in life and is not discussed much today as we gather with our family members for celebrations, burials, etc. I salute Tayari for tackling such an intense topic and giving a voice to all the 'Silver Sparrows' in the world. I guarantee you will encounter many emotions and come away with a new understanding of the age old saying "We did what we thought best and gave what we had at the time." Through all our daily activities what every human being desires is to be heard, seen and loved. What I love most, is as you close the book your spirit will be lifted because you'll be reminded of the powerful song that contains this refrain: I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free, For his eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me. I recommend you allow your daughters, nieces and any young girl you know read this story! My selfish wish is that perhaps we get a sequel *fingers crossed*. <This was not edited so pardon any errors.>
This book makes you feel like you are having a private conversation with the children of a bigamist. This book was so well written I almost cant believe its fiction. Its as if the story taken from something the author has seen or heard in her life. You will be totally captured from the first page. I did not expect to love it but I did. You read the novel feeling bad for Dana, one daughter of the bigamist. Then you wonder how many kids are out there torn and broken like this girl. The way the author describes the father, is to believable its scary. I don't want to give the story away and spoil it for anyone, but go buy it. Asap. Great for your library, great for your hs/college aged daughters, great for its take-away lessons, and great for a conversation piece or book club.
do not download this. there is a problem with the digital copy and you will get 247 pages of the cover page and will have to go through several emails/phone calls before your money is refunded.
This book is a must-read! I found this book browsing through Goodreads and the other reviews said such great things that I just had to read it. It’s broken down into two parts and each is told by one of James Witherspoon’s daughters. James is a bigamist and only ONE of his two daughters knows about the other one. From there, you just know that it is going to get intense. It got a little slow in the middle and the end felt rushed, but overall it was a great book. I read the second half a lot more quickly, but I’m not sure if that’s because the story got better or I liked the style of writing better (different narrator = different tone). Either way, your heart will break for Dana and, in my opinion, more so for Chaurisse. I guess at the end you have to pick a girl to root for.
This story begins through the eyes of Dana Lynn, a young girl of color being raised in relatively poor circumstances. She and her mother don't live in poverty, but they are surviving on a single mother's nursing salary. As the first line in the book states quite bluntly, Dana's father is a bigamist, already married to another woman and yet married to her mother as well. The book reveals Dana's life with her mother Gwen, and what she knows of the life of her father's other family with his wife Laverne and other daughter Chaurisse. It was fascinating to see the story through Dana’s eyes, and to build your impression of Chaurisse and her mother and everything else through Dana, and then to suddenly have that shift a little over halfway through the story, and see things from Chaurisse’s perspective. I loved that about this story. Only 21 or so and already divorced, Gwen finds herself living in a rooming house and pregnant with a married man's child. Gwen has her baby and puts herself through school to become a nurse. Shortly after Dana's birth, James and Gwen marry in a neighboring state. Dana is raised knowing from a young age about her father's other family, and getting the sense that she must spend her life playing second fiddle to sister Chaurisse. However sister Chaurisse and the family know nothing of Dana and her mother. It isn't until grandmother Bunny is on her deathbed that her grandmother is finally told of Dana, and Dana is brought to meet her. Bunny was my favorite character, as brief as she was in the story. She wished her boys would have told her sooner of Dana's existence, and that she'd had time to get to know her. This is one of those books that can just leave a bad taste in your mouth, because you are so frustrated with the characters and the way they handle the events in their lives. And father James, while you give him credit for trying to be a part of his "illegitimate" daughter's life, you see the unfairness of it all. Dana is always given second best. She gets her father one day a week while here sister gets him every day. Throughout her life she has to sacrifice her wants for that of her sister (when her sister wants a summer job at the same place as Dana or wants to attend the same program, it is Dana that must forfeit her desire). And while her father and his wife Laverne make a good living and are able to provide their daughter Chaurisse with a comfortable life that include debutante balls, Dana lives in the projects, being raised on her mother's salary and whatever scraps her father tosses their way. James' brother Raleigh is sort of likable, but his general inaction and silence in the face of what his brother is doing to Dana and her mother is infuriating at times. He is his brother's accomplice in his duplicity, and James could not have pulled off the dual lives (one public and one secret) without Raleigh, who is even named as Dana's father on her birth certificate. My final word: This book was "okay". I enjoyed the unique dual perspective, I was intrigued by the concept. But when it came down to it, I just didn't like the characters very much. Bunny was the only one I really cared for, and the daughter Chaurisse and uncle Raleigh I liked a bit. The writing style was okay, but not thoroughly engaging. It gets an "eh" from me. Kind of intriguing, but the characters are ultimately unlikable.
This book really hit home with me. I wonder if I was the girl other girls were watching. My father had an outside family. My mother divorced him when my youngest brother entered hiigh school. I refuse to have any connection to those other people, I didn't know they existed until my parents divorced. This story took me on a journey that I need to take.
I love the way Jones's characters are developed just enough so you can care about them, but with enough mystery so they seem human. The characters stayed true through and true. Excellent writing as always.
The ending was a bit abrupt. Left me with some questions. But overall it was a good read.
Ms. Jones has done a beautiful job of showing the two sides of life between children of the same father. I was on the edge of my seat and not sure who I supported more. Her ability to demonstrate compassion and weave the two stories together is truly remarkable. I highly recommend her books!
THE PRODUCT OF MY FATHER'S SECRET I COULD NOT FINISH THIS BOOK FAST ENOUGH. WHAT A POWERFUL STORY. TAYARI JONES HAS DONE AN EXCELLENT JOB WRITING THIS NOVEL. TWO LITTLE GIRLS GROWING UP IN ATLANTA, NOT KNOWING THAT THEY ARE SISTERS IS JUST MIND BLOWING. DANA KNOWS ABOUT CHAURISSE AND HER MOTHER, BUT CHAURISSE KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT DANA. I CAN ONLY IMAGINE HOW DANA FELT WHEN SHE IS FINALLY TOLD THAT, SHE IS THE SECRET THAT HER FATHER IS KEEPING AND NOT CHAURISSE. HOW IS A LITTLE GIRL SUPPOSE TO ACCEPT THAT?? AFTER THAT REVELATION, THE BOOK JUST KEEPS GETTING DEEPER AND DEEPER. A FRIENDSHIP IS DEVELOPED AMONG THE GIRLS THAT IS UNLIKE ANY OTHER. IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A WOW BOOK, LOOK NO FUTHER, THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU. I HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK. ENJOY......
This book was well written from two points of view. The story is told by two daughters of the same man. One family is well aware of the other, the other is blissfully ignorant about the man s secret family. Jones has done a masterful job in telling each point of view. The ending is painful and real as secrets tend to cause way to much stress and strain on all parties involved. Each character is flawed and real. The story pulls you in and keeps you interested until the last page.
It was okay
Well written book with beautiful language about a black family in the siuth whose husband and father is a bigamist. He has two families and two daughters roughly the same age. Though the first family knows about the first, his first family doesn't have the same knowledge. When as a five year old his second daughter is told by her father that she is the secret family it colors her whole life. when the two daughters become friends many things happen.
In the 1980's, James Witherspoon has two families. Dana and her mother know about his primary family, but Laverne and Chaurisse do not know about them. But black Atlanta is a small community, and the two girls keep meeting, becoming friends. But only one of them knows they are sisters until it all comes apart.
This book was not what I expected when I picked it up- but in the end the story delivered more than I anticipated. This story, told from the points of view of the two daughters of a man with two families (one open, one secret) was dark and rather heartbreaking. I was appalled by the actions of the adults in this story, especially the father, who had no redeeming qualities that I could see. The life of secret daughter Dana was so sad that I found it hard to relate to Chaurisse when her turn came even though she had no idea how much impact her wants and needs had on the life of her secret sister.The writing was excellent, and I suppose if the story had a different ending I would likely have gone for five stars, but the epilogue made me sad and cast a pall over the story for me (though other readers may disagree).
The ¿other woman¿. The mere thought of an ¿other woman¿ existing is terrifying, horrifying, humiliating and for many, beyond imagination. What if the ¿other woman¿ had a child? What if she lived in the same town and neighborhood? What if the ¿other woman¿ was not a passing fancy, but existed in the husband¿s life for decades ¿ visiting her for dinner, giving her money to support herself. What if the husband¿s friends and family knew about her? Is the ¿other woman¿ to blame? Is the child? How does the child of an ¿other woman¿ grow up emotionally healthy when she knows she is living in a shadow? When she knows that she is a secret? What kind of man, husband, father would live this sort of double life? And which family would he choose if his secret was exposed. Silver Sparrow explores the very complicated walls and paths drawn around the hidden life that a bigamist lives and that of his secret second wife and their child. The main portion of the story takes place during the 1980s in Atlanta, and is told from two points of view. The book begins with Dana, the bigamist¿s secret daughter. The unfolding of the story with Dana's point of view, immediately put Dana as the sympathetic character. And as Dana told the story, I almost was able to believe that the father may have been doing somewhat right by her. Ms. Jones is such a skillful writer, in that she allowed me to buy completely into their life. The second half of the book focuses on Chaurisse, who is also a daughter of the bigamist¿s, but by his first marriage ¿ and thus his public relationship. From the beginning of Chaurisse's point of view, it becomes clear that what Chaurisse has is a true father and a much truer family experience.; poor Dana has the cast-offs. The contrast between each girl¿s life becomes starker as the story unfolds. We learn that, incredibly, both Dana and her mother are invested in protecting the bigamist¿s secret; they are invested in protecting their life in the shadows. I saw incredibly, because at some point shouldn¿t they become frustrated with being pushed to the side? At some point will they have a need to bring it to light? And how does the ¿first wife¿ not guess about the duplicity? Does she not wonder why her husband is gone every single Wednesday? Does she not notice that money is missing? Both wives have their own careers and truly are able to support themselves and their daughters. They are not in a situation where they are dependent on their man ¿ the bigamist ¿ to support them financially. So where does the emotional dependence come from? Why stay? The story does not explore these points directly asked, but they are explored implicitly. Dana and Chaurisse are the same age, however both girls do not possess the same level of knowledge about each other or about their father. Dana and her mother know all about Chaurisse and her mother; they live in their shadow. Every choice and step that Dana and her mother take is tempered by whether Chaurisse and her mother will be there or choose to do something similar. Dana is truly a ¿second¿. Chaurisse and her mother have no idea that Dana exists. But Chaurisse ¿gets¿ her father on a daily basis, she lives with him and has the intimacy of a father-daughter relationship. Dana does not have any of this. Her father, while a weekly visitor, is a mystery and almost an intangible. Through the telling of the story by Dana and Chaurisse, readers are also taken back in history and treated to a rich story telling of the adults¿ lives as children. The characters in Silver Sparrow are richly developed, not only Dana and Chaurisse, but also the ancillary characters that assist in creating (and maintaining!) this situation ¿ the mothers, the father, and the father¿s best friend. Through the interplay of the various characters, readers are pulled into this beautifully told story. And let me tell you, it is an entertaining immersion, you will not regret it, but it is painful as
Chaurisse Witherspoon described certain people - naturally pretty girls who took their beauty to another level - as ¿silver girls.¿ When she encountered Dana Yarboro in the cosmetic aisle in a mall drugstore during an aborted shoplifting attempt, she immediately recognized her as a silver girl. Dana recognized Chaurisse too - as her half-sister. Chaurisse is drawn to a friendship with Dana; Dana is drawn to something a little different.Tayari Jones¿ third novel, Silver Sparrow, is an unusual take on a not-entirely-unusual story. Plenty of people drift into (or deliberately choose to have) affairs. Sometimes those affairs result in children. It¿s less common for the mother of one of those children to insist on marriage to the father while the father remains married to, and refuses to leave, his wife - who, by the way, is also expecting a baby. But marriage to James Witherspoon is what Gwen Yarboro wanted, and for years of Wednesday nights, she and her daughter Dana had James and his ¿brother¿ Raleigh with them as family; those were the nights that James¿ wife Laverne and daughter Chaurisse believed the men were working. While Gwen and Dana are constantly aware, and frequently resentful, of James¿ other family, Laverne and Chaurisse have no idea it exists.Jones tells the first half of the story through Dana¿s first-person narration, and then switches to Chaurisse¿s voice before bringing the two girls - teens born just a few months apart - together. It¿s an effective construct that allows the reader to have the same ¿secret¿ knowledge about Chaurisse that Dana has before meeting her; once we do meet her, that knowledge filters the reading of her side of the story. For me, that added both poignancy and a sense of foreboding to the second half of the book - it was pretty clear that before it was all over, everyone was going to know the whole truth. Jones¿ writing keeps Silver Sparrow from being as melodramatic as its plot suggests it might be, and telling the story through the daughters is one way she achieves that. She has also created memorable characters, each of whom can evoke the reader¿s sympathy even when they¿re not entirely likable, and given both of her narrators distinctive voices and perspectives without significantly changing her writing style when she shifts. Her depiction of 1980s Atlanta feels true to time and place. Silver Sparrow was an absorbing read, and I¿d like to read more from Tayari Jones.
Tayari Jones firmly places you in the backdrop of black, middle class Atlanta during the 1970s and 1980s. But there's also a lot of really interesting and historical context brought into the novel to help explain how the adults, in particular, came to such a complicated matter.Silver Sparrow is the story of two daughters and the bigamist father they share. Although James Witherspoon works very hard to keep his two families separate, the girls inevitably meet and strike up a friendship.Tayari Jones did an exceptional job telling this story and I wondered if she was trying to convey it in a way that you¿re more sympathetic to one character over another. However, the novel masterfully shifts points of view. The first half of the book is narrated by Dana Lynn Yarboro (illegitimate daughter) and the second part of the book is narrated by Bunny Chaurisse Witherspoon who doesn't know the truth but the friendship forces things to a heartbreaking climax and conclusionThis was one of the most difficult books to review. It¿s a very interesting storyline. The whole premise of reading the novel was to discover how the story could possibly be resolved effectively and how all the tension and psychological strain is played out between the two innocent daughters who only wanted to be loved and valued. Someone or everyone would have to be hurt in this situation. I wasn¿t sure who I wanted to come out on top. I came into the story expecting to hate the bigamist, but I came out feeling empathy for everyone involved. Amid the dishonesty and treachery, I felt loyal to both sisters and both mothers in this complex tale. I loved the interjection of real life people, like Dr. Martin Luther King and the infamous Al `Grits¿ Green and Mary Woodson White story.I look forward to reading another novel by Tayari Jones.
This book was not exactly what I was expecting when I first picked it up. The writing is excellent, though the story is heartbreaking. Jones divided the novel into two halfs: the first is Dana's story, in her own words, of life as a secret daughter in a secret family; the second is Chaurisse's much more mundane tale of life in what she sees as a normal family. Dana's experiences are awful, as are (in my opinion) the adults in her life who enable and create her negative environment. Though Chaurisse is not directly to blame for the way that Dana is treated, her very existence as the public daughter nearly destroys her hidden sister's dreams. Jones tells an engaging story, one that made me want to keep reading. I was truly disappointed by the Epilogue however, which left me with a bad taste in my mouth and less respect for the characters than I had previously held. I give 'Silver Sparrow' 3.5 stars - I'd recommend it, but be prepared for a little disappointment in your fellow man.
I absolutely love this book. It is a very simple and classic read. I actually think that the brilliance of Tayari's writing is demonstrated in the simplicity of the story. I so appreciate reading the different perspectives of the two main characters. This story creativity makes readers reflect on the complexities of love and relationships. I also think the story makes readers examine our perspectives, judgement and of love and relationships. This was a very powerful read for me.
This book was interesting because it was told by two daughters of the same man with completely different perspectives. Their father was a bigamist. One was his public family the other his ¿secret¿ family. As the reader was told the story from each daughter¿s perspective it was easy to see the humanity in each situation and feel sympathy for each of the daughters. In the background is James friend, Raleigh, who would do anything for the family. The downside was that it seemed almost like the author didn't know how to end the book. After the confrontation, there is not much about what happened next. The ending disappointed me.
The story told by 2 girls who ar the daughters of a bigamist...only one doesn't know about the other. Kinda dragged and was really disappointing in the end. Thank goodness it was short.