Book of the month
Tayari Jones has written for McSweeney’s, the New York Times, and the Believer. Her previous novels are Leaving Atlanta and The Untelling, winner of the Lillian C. Smith Award. Jones holds degrees from Spelman College, Arizona State University, and the University of Iowa. She serves on the MFA faculty at Rutgers–Newark and blogs on writing at Tayari Jones is available for select speaking engagements. Please contact

Use these discussion questions to guide your next meeting.


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 secret one. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters. It is a relationship destined to explode.


As Dana says, bigamy “happens all the time, and not just between religious fanatics, traveling salesmen, handsome sociopaths, and desperate women” (page 4). Do you know personally of situation involving a secret wife or secret children? How did the situation come to light, and how was it resolved?

In the case of Silver Sparrow, what do you think was more harmful, the bigamy itself, or the deception? If James had been honest, would he have been able to integrate Dana into his life in a healthy way? Once the truth is out, does Laverne have any moral obligation to be a stepmother to Dana?

When we think of custody, we think about parents gaining custody of children. But children also have custody of parents. In Silver Sparrow, Chaurisse has custody of her father, James. Would it be possible for him to be an equal father to two daughters since they do not live in the same house? Is it inevitable that one daughter would be favored over the other?