B. A. Binns is a Chicago Area author who writes stories about “real boys growing into real men,” and finds writing the perfect follow-up to life as an adoptive parent and a cancer survivor.
She has authored three realistic, YA books exploring multicultural themes: PULL (2010), DIE TRYING AND OTHER STORIES (2012) and BEING GOD (2013). She presents workshops on subjects such as Reaching Reluctant Readers, Multicultural literature, and Non-traditional Romances. She has been featured at the Illinois Reading Council, the Wisconsin Festival of Books, the Ohio Educational Library Media Association, the Indiana Library Federation, the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE, DePaul University. In 2013 she will present at the Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature for Children. It is with great honor that we present to you, B.A. Binns, on Day 10 of our 28 Days Later Program.
Tell Us About “The Journey.”
The best part about taking any journey is that you always end up somewhere. The nicest part about my journey is that it’s on-going, I still have new destinations before me.
My journey began with a character who moved into my head and refused to leave. She was joined by others, her friends, relatives, and even a few enemies. Suddenly I had more imaginary friends than my elementary school daughter. Friends with their own lives who wanted me to tell their stories.
One character in particular, David Albacore, needed to explain his motives to the world. I combined his need with information from an AWP (Association of Writing Professionals) workshop I attended in 2009, about boys not reading. The result was his story, told from his POV. I found an agent and editor who loved the message and christened the book PULL. Westside Books published David’s story in 2010.
Watch the PULL book trailer: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSjnzWMN9y0&feature=player_embedded]
What or Who Is Your Inspiration?
Cynthia Liu and I are both Chicagoland girls, and I loved her Paris Pan middle grade book. It was wonderful to meet her and discuss some issues about POC in today’s YA books.
James Klise is another Chicago area author, librarian, and teacher. He and I have met and worked together at several conferences and workshops. This summer we will collaborate on a presentation about attracting male reluctant readers at the American Library Association summer conference (I have come full circle from my AWP days).
Last, but so not least, Torrey Moldanado a Hispanic male YA author I discovered at the 2012 YALSA literature symposium. I immediately became a fan. I was deeply moved hearing him speak about writing to reach out to his own younger reluctant reader self. That remains one of my major motives in writing, to reach out to young reluctant readers and help turn them around.
Can You Fill Us In onThe Back Story?
PULL sold to Westside in 2010 and was rushed into production by November of that year. The response to David’s world inspired other characters and both short stories and new books. BEING GOD takes Malik Kaplan, Pull’s antagonist, on his own journey, because even bad guys have reasons for their actions. And when that “bad guy” is only seventeen, he deserves a shot at redemption. So I take the boy who believes that force is the right response to almost every situation and make him confront a series of disasters that force him to look into a mirror and decide if the man he sees staring back is really the man he wants to be.
PULL was named a 2012 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers, and named to a 2011 School Library Journal list of Best Books For Youth In Detention. PULL has also received wonderful reviews from a number of sources.
A sample of some of the reviews:
This compelling story gives authentic voice to…the long-term consequences of domestic violence, and a maturing teen’s need to differentiate the expectations he has of himself from those even the adults he respects have. …Offers much to engage both male and female readers, readers of color, and teachers. – Booklist
The story is gripping, and the raw language accurately depicts how young adults speak…many young adults will enjoy reading about the many challenges David faces and his unruly wooing of Yolanda. It is the kind of book where once you’ve read the first page, you are hooked. – Voya
Tautly written, gripping and realistic…the story of what we owe our parents’ dreams for us–and what we do not. – Tanita S. Davis, recipient of the 2010 Coretta Scott King Author Honor
The characters’ feelings are realistically portrayed and the raw language is not gratuitous. …this is Binns’ first novel and she is an author who definitely has potential. – School Library Journal
David is never a comfortable character, and he won’t make you feel comfortable (especially if you, like me, wince at the thought of someone not getting an education). And that, I think is what makes this book so raw and powerful. It is simply too easy to believe that David is real. To buy into what is a complex mix of teenage anger and angst and hope and self-hatred and arrogance all at once–and even though those things sound contradictory, when David lets you know how it is, in his short, terse, no-nonsense style, it’s real. – USA Today Bestselling author Courtney Milan
It was beyond refreshing to have a guy male character who is not a “lovable nerd” or a “playa with a soft interior”. David seems to fit in the middle of these two extremes. He’s not a playa, nor is he particularly good at school and he’s surprisingly not hopeless when it comes to girls (it most likely helps that his mother was a good example and that he has two sisters). I was afraid that David would try and play the “noble hero” throughout the novel. He does try it, but he soon realizes that he does resent his sisters. Because of his sisters he can’t keep his paycheck for himself or take The Dare (as Yolanda is known) out on fancy dates along with a host of other things. The noble thing about David is that he acknowledges his resentment, but fights to keep it under control. Pull is a frank story that does not hesitate to talk about sex, swear or even gay relationships (I was grinning from ear to ear when I read a certain scene between Carl and Neill. They were gay and it was no big deal. Yes!). – Ari at Reading in Color blog
My favorite review came from an 8th grade boy described by his teacher as a “reluctant reader,” who called Pull “better than cable” and asked for MORE. That desire helped inspire me to complete The DIE TRYING collection (2012) and now BEING GOD (2013).
BEING GOD’S first review came from a 17-year-old boy, who said, “The book BEING GOD was really good! I was able to relate to what the main character was going through. This book shows that there is always a way out of trouble, and also how the decisions we make can affect us in the long run. I loved it.”
See my blog: http://harperwriterstogether.blogspot.com/p/pull-reviews.html for a more comprehensive list of reviews.
In Your Opinion, What is The State of the Industry?
Westside wanted to publish more books with diverse characters, but it couldn’t find the right mix and market. The company’s demise in 2012 left me without a home. I made a decision to self-publish BEING GOD, which came out February 1, 2013 under my own imprint, AllTheColorsOfLove. I purchased cover art, hired an editor, used Createspace for printing, and signed a contract with Follett Library Services for distribution of my books. And now I am free to move on to the next book, MINORITY OF ONE, where Neill, a black gay teen, deals with the revelation that he was adopted, has a white half-sister, and that his mother wants to re-enter his life.
I believe the new world of publishing will open avenues to readers in the niche or boutique markets that major publishers may be reluctant to risk entering. I write for people who want diversity in their reading material, and for reluctant teen readers. I realize those groups are still considered niche groups among the major players in the publishing world. While I hope everyone who likes a good read will pick up one of my books, for AllTheColorsOfLove, those “niche” groups are the prime target.
I do not believe books featuring diversity in characters and settings is a limiting area. People just don’t know how many quality multicultural books are out there or where to find them. I speak at a number of librarian and educator conferences. When I do, I always find teachers and librarians who want more diversity in their collections and do not know how to find the right books. I donate books to schools, libraries, and juvenile detention centers to make sure my intended audience find books to instill a love of reading.
See B. A. Binns interviewed by:
Sammy the Parrot at the 2012 Illinois Library Federation:
Norwood Holland of Black Literature Magazine, at the 2012 Romance Slam Jam – http://youtu.be/7yMUtZXaEz4?t=6m15s