President Barack Obama’s summer reading list includes a book about a Black couple impacted by a wrongful conviction—a reality for a disproportionate number of African-American families.
The former president unveiled his list of five books on Sunday, and it is a mix of fiction and nonfiction titles that include An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.
“One of my favorite parts of summer is deciding what to read when things slow down just a bit, whether it’s on a vacation with family or just a quiet afternoon,” Obama posted on Facebook. “This summer I’ve been absorbed by new novels, revisited an old classic, and reaffirmed my faith in our ability to move forward together when we seek the truth.
In the novel, newlywed couple Celestial and Roy are beginning their life together with great optimism about the future. Things become unhinged when Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The couple struggles to hold on to their union while Roy languishes behind bars. Jones, a Spelman College graduate, has received praise for her moving novel.
Jones touched on an issue that has disproportionately torn apart Black families. African Americans convicted of murder or sexual assault are more likely than their white counterparts to be found innocent later, the National Registry of Exonerations reported in 2017 in an analysis of almost 2,000 exonerations.
Black defendants accounted for 40 percent of murder convictions over the nearly three decades covered in the study—and also represented 50 percent of those wrongfully convicted.
Obama’s four other favorites are Tara Westover’s Educated, Warlight by Michael Ondaatje, the classic A House for Mr Biswas written by Nobel Prize winner V.S. Naipaul and Factfulness by Hans Rosling.