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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (August 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446690899
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446690898
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #271,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Based on the Atlanta child murders of 1979-1980, this wrenching debut novel is told from the perspective of three Atlanta fifth-graders living in the midst of the crisis. Tasha is a sweet, conflicted middle-class girl navigating the harsh social waters of her school. Rodney, "the weirdest boy in class," is an unpopular kid who feels both pushed and ignored by his perfectionist parents. Octavia is a whip-smart, confident social outcast who carefully notes that she lives "across the street" from the projects. Jones, who was a child herself in Atlanta in the late '70s and early '80s, weaves her tale with consummate ease, shifting from third to second to first person as she switches narrators. The details of the children's everyday life playground fights, school cafeteria breakfasts, candy store visits are convincingly presented and provide an emotional context for the murders. When classmates begin disappearing, we know that they, along with their peers, are not one-dimensional innocents. One night when Octavia sneaks a late-night look at the local news, she sees a now-missing classmate flash on the screen. "In the picture he looked like a regular boy from our class. He was by himself so you couldn't tell that he was shorter than most of them and just nicer and smarter than all of them put together. Kodak commercials say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the one they showed of Rodney ain't worth more than three or four. Boy. Black. Dead." This strongly grounded tale hums with the rhythms of schoolyard life and proves Jones to be a powerful storyteller.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Narrated in succession by three extremely perceptive (though at times almost too precocious) fifth graders, this first novel engagingly conveys the paranoia and fear that dominated the African American community in Atlanta during the 1979 child murders, a time when almost two dozen black children were abducted and murdered, their corpses abandoned in the countryside. While the ending of the final section seems too pat (and this reviewer also wishes that the book had a better title), Jones is still able to capture what it feels like to be ten-that fascinating interstitial moment when one can be simultaneously torn between being savvy enough to know that all is not right with the world and devastated at not being invited to a popular classmate's sleepover. Jones is particularly good at portraying the day-to-day lives of these children-their often difficult home lives and their mundane but fascinating school experiences-although, as in many novels narrated by children, the adults don't come off very well. In style, tone, and approach, Jones's novel is reminiscent of another excellent realistic novel of African American social life, Thuliani Davis's 1959. For most public libraries, especially those with large African American collections.
Roger A. Berger, Everett Community Coll., WA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Tayari Jones was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia where she spent most of her childhood with the exception of the one year she and her family spent in Nigeria, West Africa. Although she has not lived in her hometown for over a decade, much of her writing centers on the urban south. "Although I now live in the northeast," she explains, "my imagination lives in Atlanta."

Her first novel, Leaving Atlanta, is a coming of age story set during the city's infamous child murders of 1979-81. Jones herself was in the fifth grade when thirty African American children were murdered from the neighborhoods near her home and school. When asked why she chose this subject matter for her first novel, she says, "This novel is my way of documenting a particular moment in history. It is a love letter to my generation and also an effort to remember my own childhood. To remind myself and my readers what it was like to been eleven and at the mercy of the world. And despite the obvious darkness of the time period, I also wanted to remember all that is sweet about girlhood, to recall all the moments that make a person smile and feel optimistic."

Leaving Atlanta received many awards and accolades including the Hurston/Wright Award for Debut Fiction. It was named "Novel of the Year" by Atlanta Magazine, "Best Southern Novel of the Year," by Creative Loafing Atlanta. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Washington Post both listed it as one of the best of 2002. She has received fellowships from organizations including Illinois Arts Council, Bread Loaf Writers Conference, The Corporation of Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, Arizona Commission on the Arts and Le Chateau de Lavigny.

Her second novel, The Untelling, published in 2005, is the story of a family struggling to overcome the aftermath of a fatal car accident. When asked why she chose to focus on a particular family in this work after the sprawling historical subject matter of Leaving Atlanta, Tayari Jones explains, "The Untelling is a novel about personal history and individual and familial myth-making. These personal stories are what come together to determine the story of a community, the unoffical history of a neighborhood, of a city, of a nation." Upon the publication of The Untelling, Essence magazine called Jones, "a writer to watch." The Atlanta Journal Constitution proclaims Jones to be "one of the best writers of her generation." In 2005, The Southern Regional council and the University of Georgia Libraries awarded The Untelling with the Lillian C. Smith Award for New Voices.

The Silver Girl, her highly anticipated third novel, is forthcoming from Algonquin Books. An excerpt has been published in Calaloo. Tayari Jones debuted the piece as a headline reader at the conference of the Associated Writers Conference in Atlanta.

Tayari Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, The University of Iowa, and Arizona State University. She has taught at Prairie View A&M University, East Tennessee State University, The University of Illinois and George Washington University. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University. She was recently named as the 2008 Collins Fellow by the United States Artists Foundation.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
5 star
48
4 star
19
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See all 73 customer reviews
This book was very easy to read and I had a hard time putting it down.
Magdalene Moulatsiotis
I am not a parent, but should I become a parent one day, I will know to take heed and treat my child as the gift that he/she will be.
Toni
Tayari Jones has done an amazing job of capturing the voice of the child characters.
Sanderia Faye Smioth

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By pearl cleage on August 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Leaving Atlanta, Tayari Jones wonderful debut novel, brings to life one of the most terrible periods in Atlanta's history, the time when a serial killer was snatching and murdering children at the rate of one a month. While much has been written and said about the hunt for the killer, his probable motives, the impact on the city's image, this book takes a completely different approach by taking us back to that time through the eyes of the children who lived through it. Their fear, their vulnerability and their absolute "kidness" even in the face of the horror all around them come through clearly in Jones' book. Without sensationalizing the story in any way, she makes you feel the children's fear of a new crossing guard, even if he is an emissary from the guardian angels, come south to protect them. Jones' has a gift for the dialogue of her youthful characters and never strikes a false note when they talk to each other or to the adults scrambling to protect them. A pleasure to read and a unique perspective on those terrible times that still haunt all of us who could not find a way to protect our children from a danger we will never understand.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Cydney Rax on August 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Leaving Atlanta is a must-read novel that exudes with honesty, compassion, and literary beauty. Told in alternate voices from school-aged kids who give their account of the time period during the Atlanta child disappearances, the story treads through the familiar: moms who lie, fathers who try to protect and secure their family, kids who belittle each other one day, and kids who befriend each other when they have nobody else to talk to. Tayari Jones is a talented writer who employs simple yet profound prose to tell her story. Leaving Atlanta is a wonderful accomplishment, a novel that speaks to the heart and mind of kids and grown-ups alike.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I lived in Atlanta during the time of the real-life Atlanta Child Murders. I was the father of a son and daughter who were about the age of the children who are the main characters in this novel. At that time, all I could think about was keeping them safe. I never wondered what they were thinking during this time until I read this arresting new novel.
LEAVING ATLANTA gives voice to the thoughts of a generation. I felt like I was reliving this time, but this time, I had a better understanding of my children. This is a must read for any and all parents.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J.C. Wallington on September 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Leaving Atlanta is an absolutely awesome reading experience. Who can forget the child abductions and murders in Atlanta in 1979? It was a fearful and trying time for all, but for the children, who lived in Atlanta, it had to be one of the most frightening things they experienced. The author Tayari Jones does an excellent job of getting into the minds and thoughts of the children as they try to process what was happening to these children, and more so when the victim was someone they knew.
For the children in this book, Tasha, Rodney and Octavia, being in the fifth grade is hard. They surely had enough on their minds just with trying to fit in, make friends, puberty, and pleasing their parents. All the parents are talking about the child murders and trying to figure out how to keep their children safe.
Each child story is unique, each living environment different, but with each child there is that vulnerability which made you just want to wrap your arms around them and shelter them from all that was bad. This moving novel is one that I will be highly recommending. I will be on the lookout for future books by this author.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Alma F Washington on August 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This novel could not have come at a beter time. Although the child abductions at the center of this work happened over twenty years ago, the subject is relevant today. Everyday on the news, it seems that more children have been stolen from their families. This book takes us back to a two-year period in Atlanta when almost thirty children were abducted. Jones lets us see the children's perspective on this. Lets us see the way that children are afraid and the ways that they cope. This is a novel that will make you love our children with all your hert and protect them with all your strength. Tayari Jones is a stunning writer. I hope to be reading her books for years to come.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J.Sinclaire Allen on August 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Every one who has been a child will recognize the children in Leaving Atlanta. The expert crafting of language here disappears the writer, and we are left with the voices, thoughts and fears of fifth graders.
Not rendered wunderkind who figure it all out, and philosophize about the meaning of childhood, difference, or death; or morally superior because of their circumstances-- these kids are just kids, and we immediately care what happens to each of them, from page one. Concerns about who will be invited to a sleepover, a first flirtation at the roller rink, or the anxiety of recognizing that you `have' (a pretty pink coat), or `have not' (new shoes, or breakfast-evidenced by your presence at school hours before its' start to receive free lunch) often crowd out, for a time, the horrible backdrop of what we have come to know as "the Atlanta child murders."
This brilliant first novel is not even about the child murders, as such. The ongoing issues of black life in America, including the murders, however, provide a context for its' subtle, even funny, but always incisive commentary on class, race, and gender in the US . The early work of Morrison immediately comes to mind.
Jones has captured something very rare here. On the one hand there is a sweet-- even fairly "universal"-- coming of age narrative. The quotidian concerns of these fifth graders become our concerns-- what before reading this book we may have thought of as the petty details out of which children's lives are made. At the same time the reader is drawn so deeply into the unutterable questions 'who will be next?' and 'who will be saved?' that Leaving Atlanta is a formidable page turning, breath holding novel that defies easy description, but is wholly intellectually and emotionally satisfying, at the same time.
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