Silver Sparrow
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Silver Sparrow

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3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  6,171 ratings  ·  1,089 reviews
With the opening line of Silver Sparrow, “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist,” author Tayari Jones unveils a breathtaking story about a man’s deception, a family’s complicity, and the two teenage girls caught in the middle.

Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon’s two families—the public one and the s...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Algonquin Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Silver Sparrow by Tayari JonesPym by Mat JohnsonMy Soul to Take by Tananarive DueSalvage the Bones by Jesmyn WardThe Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate
2011's Best African American Literature
1st out of 40 books — 81 voters
The Color Purple by Alice WalkerI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya AngelouBeloved by Toni MorrisonInvisible Man by Ralph EllisonThe Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
Black History Month
54th out of 300 books — 330 voters


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Community Reviews

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Wilhelmina
I had not intended to read this book so quickly or to stay up until 3 AM reading it, but I was so caught up in this beautifully written, touching story that I couldn't stop. It's the kind of book that makes you want to discuss it with others right away. I have admired Tayari Jones' writing since her first novel Leaving Atlanta: A Novel, and in my opinion, her writing has only improved over time. She is able to convey so much by the voices she creates for two girls with a common father - given an...more
Regina
Silver Sparrow was chosen as one of the top 10 books of 2011 by Library Journal.

Here is an NPR article about this wonderful gem.

Here is a Washington Post about Silver Sparrow.

What does the “other woman” represent in the nightmares of women everywhere? 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...more
Andre
Good read, not great. Can't really understand all the fuss. Keep hearing that "it's well written." Hell aren't books supposed to be? We set the bar pretty low when we say that. I pay good money for books, and for me well written is a minimum expectation. I think pace, subject matter, character, realism and prose are important when judging a book as worthy of ones' time. And in that vein, Silver Sparrow hits the mark. It is book you will enjoy talking about with others, because of the real life p...more
Debbie
Complicated. Complicated. Complicated!
This is a book that so many "bookie" friends have recommended to me. I just recently found it in my local used bookstore with a round of other much recommended books and so I decided to dive right in. Since so many have already read it, I'm not too sure what I could say that hasn't already been said but of course, give my opinion.

Let's start with the composition. This is an extremely tempting and curious book. From the first page as our narrator starts to...more
Franc
There was a good premise here - 2 daughters, 2 mothers, 1 father. Oly 1 mother/daughter pairing knew of the other. And then ultimately, they would all come together somewhow. It was the coming together that didn't wow! me - I wanted more from that very important turn-their-life-upside-down moment. There were a lost of questions I had when I got to the last page. Why didn't Raleigh have his own lady-friend, why did he hang his whole life on his not- brother and his family? Why did Dana befriend C...more
Roxanne
I have never read a story that even comes close to what Tayari Jones has created. Jones created a distinctive story, that engages the reader from beginning to end.

While this felt very Young Adult to me, I was completely engrossed by page 10. And I am definately not a young adult.

For some reason I was disappointed when the narrative voice changed from Dana to Chaurisse. The situation that both girls were put in was a result of their father's decision-making and Dana's mothers poor judgment.

I co...more
Hattie
tayari jones

When I write a book review, I try hard not to give away spoilers. This time TAYARI JONES took that burden from my shoulder. The first chapter is titled The Secret. The first sentence reveals the secret. "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist." The many other paragraphs and chapters in Silver Sparrow reveal the lives of two families. Both the Yarboro and Witherspoon families would probably say there is a father and husband in their home most of the time. However, I think each fa...more
Babydoll
I must confess, that even after the conclusion of this book, the story continues to resound in my spirit. Silver Sparrow is a disheartening tale of two sisters, and a disturbing family secret that divides them for the better part of their lives. The central part of the novel takes place in 1980’s Atlanta, Georgia and is written in the narrative voices of the main characters Dana Lynn Yarboro and Bunny Chaurisse Witherspoon. At the opening of the novel, Jones introduces the reader to the vivaciou...more
Constance
This was a pleasant read for me. It started slow, but when it finally got my attention I didn’t put it down. Jones does a good job of creating imagery. Also conversation among female characters was filled with a lot of cute and sassy phrases about no good men, love and relationships in general. I felt as if the narration was uneven. Meaning Dana was given more of the substantive material. Also there were some unnecessary parts and some parts I felt weren’t explained enough. I could have done wit...more
Mocha Girl
The aftereffects of bigamy is the central theme of Silver Sparrow, a novel told from the perspectives of James Witherspoon's daughters: Chaurisse from his legally wed, older, plainer-looking first wife and Dana, the result of an affair with a much younger, attractive "wife," illegally wedded some time after Dana's birth, four months before Chaurisse's. From the onset, Dana's world is shaped by the whims and priorities of Chaurisse's. One of her earliest memories is John telling her she is the "s...more
Rowena
An intriguing story about an African-American man, James, who is a bigamist. James is married to two women at the same time,and has a daughter by each of them. The weird thing is James is actually a good man and it's easy to sympathize with his predicament.

I liked the structure of the book; the first half was narrated by Dana, daughter of the second wife, and the second half was narrated by Bunny, daughter of the first wife. As Chaurisse didn't knows that her father was already married, it was p...more
Amy
I really liked this novel. This was definitely a compelling read. It grabbed me from page one and didn't let go for the entire book. The themes of deception and identity were explored well, from several different perspectives which I thought was very effective! The changing points of view was an outstanding way to allow the reader to get 'both sides of the story.' This story is another reminder of how dishonesty can fracture people and relationships so easily! Tayari Jones is quite a good writer...more
Nenette
This one here is a good story. There was the legitimate pair of wife and daughter who was not aware that there existed an illegitimate counterpart. The illegitimate pair, who knew all along, and yet couldn't stay quiet as they supposed they had rights. Eventually, their noise got the better of them.

The story was told from the points of view of both daughters, and I think the author was fair in that sense. Chaurisse, the legitimate one, knew she had a normal family, and her issues were those of a...more
Elizabeth
This book is devastating. I never should have started it because there is only one way for a story like this to go.

And, it did.
Now I just want it out of me. Damn.

BTW: Tayari Jones, you can WRITE. Also, that epilogue is EPIC. So real and so heartbreaking. I am a hot mess. thankyouverymuch.
Nicolemauerman
In college I was subjected to Dr. Laura on my daily bus ride. One day a man called in and said that his son had just brought home his new fiancé. The only problem was that the man used to travel a lot for work and had a ‘real family’ which his son was a product of, and another family which produced a daughter. The fiancé was actually the son’s sister. Try explaining that one. Ouch.
This book is along those same lines. A taxi-driving, bigamist, stutter has both a ‘real family’ and a ‘Wednesday fa...more
Toni
Let me just begin by saying, this is already in my top 5 books of the year and it is just May. It is that good. And I'm not biased because I currently live in Atlanta, where the book is set in the 1980's, and am familiar with the world of the characters. (West End Mall hasn't changed in 20 years!)

Told in the voices of the youngest ones affected, Silver Sparrow is the story of the families of James Witherspoon - one public, one secret. Like most of these situations, the secret family is well awar...more
Jamilla Rice
An interesting journey led me to this book: one of those winding late-night internet highway rides, cruising from link to link, where you lose all sense of both your starting point and your destination, yet don't care because the trip itself yields so much more than you ever imagined when you began, and before you know it, it's 2:38 am and you're hungry again, but you're too tired to get out of bed until you almost wet it.


Or maybe that's just me.


On my quest to read "the best American novels"--t...more
marymurtz
Browsing through the books available on eReader from our public library has revealed some books to me I might not have otherwise chosen. This book was one of them. The first line grabbed me: "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist."

Set in Atlanta in the 1970s and 1980s, the story is told first from the point of view of Dana Lynn Yarboro, who is the secret child of James Witherspoon's second, secret, wife. She knows there is a "legitimate" Mrs. Witherspoon, and that there is Chaurisse, her f...more
Adrienne
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kia
This was actually my second time trying to read this book. For me it was hard to get into at first. The premise of it didnt really excite me but I forced myself to read on and hoped that it got better.

I kinda loved/hated every character. I hated the "dad" throughout the book. He was a despicable person and I was mad at the end when he really didnt even have to pay for what he did.

I went back and forth between loving and hating the uncle. In the end I was left dumbfounded as to why he even went...more
Roy
Silver Sparrow is an excellent novel written in a sure handed manner by a very talented author. It tells the tale of a bigamist, a man living two separate lives, one out in the open and the other in its shadow. His first family is the result of youthful reckless behavior and following the directions of his mother to make things right. Family number two is formed by falling in love as a grown man, but perhaps one who has not matured very much. After all, a mark of adulthood is understanding you n...more
Koritha Mitchell
Toward the end of Silver Sparrow, a character says, "Someone should write a book on the secret lives of girls" (326). Tayari Jones has done just that, and done it beautifully. This is an engrossing story about the lives led by the daughters of a man married to two women. The first half is told by the adult Dana, the daughter of the unacknowledged wife; the second half of the book is narrated by Chaurisse, the daughter of the publicly acknowledged wife.

One of the early reviewers of the novel say...more
Olivia
Jun 25, 2011 Olivia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in double lives and half lives
This book opens with what seems like a spoiler, and explains itself away throughout the rest of the 350-something pages. “My father is a bigamist,” a girl tells us. And at first sight, that sentence told me what I needed to know about men in this book, and about the women – sisters and wives – who were being kept secret in each her own way. The story is divided in half, just like everything and everyone else in the book. Each half is narrated by one of the father’s two daughters, first Dana, the...more
Ficbot
This book was a well-written and well-told story. I enjoyed about 80% of it while reading, and some of the characters stayed with me, but the book lost major points for the ending, which skipped a lot of good stuff and left me wanting more. I was going to give it three stars until I read an interview with the author where she talks more about the genesis of the story, the idea that two sisters with the same father could have such radically different experiences with him. I can relate very strong...more
Cheryl
Beautiful read!

Narrated by two girls: Dana and Chaurisse, the daughters of a bigamist who marries both their mothers. The voice of Dana will be the first thing to reel you in to hear this story. It is the 1980s in Atlanta, and two African American families are torn apart when one married man decides to marry another woman, yet keep her secret from his other family.

The book starts with narration from Dana--the secret daughter of the secret wife:

"It's a shame that there isn't a true name for a wo...more
Jaspreet
A few weeks ago, I got an email about the next meeting of the Professor and Partner book club. I was excited to find out that I would be in town and made plans to attend. I had not heard about Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, but was intrigued by the description. Since things were so crazy here in MA with trying to prepare for the upcoming baby arrival and nesting while waiting to get back into our house, I was not sure how much time I would have to read. Fortunately, things aligned well. The boo...more
Denise
Dec 31, 2012 Denise rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
I thought this was well written. I found the premise somewhat implausible, as I couldn't picture how a second family could be kept entirely secret for so long from the first. Then the very next book I read was an autobiography of a neurosurgeon who's parents split up when he was 8 because his mother discovered his father was a bigamist. Show's what I know.

It was an engaging read. There were so many places where I wondered what would happen if a character made a different choice. What could be th...more
Jean
Tayari Jones, does an exceptional job of weaving a very believable tale of two families where the male protagonist is the father of a daughter in each family. She expertly delves into the minds of both girls from their very early lives through young adulthood. The character development is such that one feels empathy for both girls and their mothers but, at the same time, leaves you with a sense of "Wake up and smell the coffee."

While reading this book I kept thinking, Jones must know of a situat...more
Meghan
Engrossing novel about two African-American girls growing up in Atlanta in the 1980s. Dana and Chaurisse are born four months apart and they share a father. Their father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist. He lives with his wife, who is Chaurisse's mother, but has a secret relationship with Dana's mother. He even married her also in secret in another state. Dana and her mother know about his other family, and they sometimes spy on Chaurisse and her mom, who are unaware of James' secret life.

The f...more
Elizabeth
Wow!
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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 magazin...more
More about Tayari Jones...
Leaving Atlanta The Untelling

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“And this is how it started. Just with coffee and the exchange of their long stories. Love can be incremental. Predicaments, too. Coffee can start a life just as it can start a day. This was the meeting of two people who were destined to love from before they were born, from before they made choices that would complicate their lives. This love just rolled toward my mother as though she were standing at the bottom of a steep hill. Mother had no hand in this, only heart.” 7 likes
“I knew by then that I would never have my mother back, not in the way I had known her all my life. When you have seen your mother shattered, there's no putting her back together. There will always be seams, chipped edges, and clumps of dried glue. Even if you could get her to where she looks the same, she will never be stronger than a cracked plate.” 6 likes
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