Most readers know Derrick Barnes as the author of the popular Ruby and the Booker Boys series. He’s also the author of the YA novel, The Making of Dr. TrueLove. But did you know Derrick has a middle grade novel that just came out last month? If you’re thinking of buying books for holiday gifts, you should consider this new release for the boys in your life. Here’s a summary from the Scholastic website:
Robeson Battlefield and Pacino Clapton meet in detention, where they discover they both had scuffles with the same person, Tariq. Although the boys have different mannerisms (Robeson is more respectful of the girl sharing detention with them) and lifestyles (Pacino lives in a sketchy part of town; Robeson lives in a huge well-to-do house), they become friends. As the tension with Tariq intensifies, Robeson is conflicted about what to do. His father insists on nonviolence. But Tariq will have none of that. And the final confrontation is fast approaching.
I borrowed a copy of the book from the library—does your library have a copy yet? Take a moment to find out and ask for it to be ordered, if necessary. Then support your local bookstore and get them to order some copies, too! Derrick took time out of his busy schedule to answer a couple of my questions:
More and more I’m realizing just how diverse boys are and because of this diversity, there really isn’t one solution for the problems boys face. Tell us about your decision to represent a range of black boys–and a range of responses to school violence/bullying.
I always start from two points of reference or points of motivation. I must: 1) attempt to tell stories and create characters that are not currently present, demographically or culturally, and 2) counter the negative or incomplete images that exist in children’s lit or popular culture. As an artist/author that feels extremely blessed to have this opportunity, I take my social responsibility very seriously; I have the ability to create the Robeson Battlefields and Pacino Claptons of the world that will debunk the one dimensional negative imagery of Black boys and present us as real-life sons, brothers, nephews, scholars, gentlemen, dreamers, doers, and compassionate difference-makers.
It’s the holiday season and lots of people are buying books as gifts—who’s the ideal recipient of your book?
I wrote WE COULD BE BROTHERS for Black boys. Midway through the manuscript it became evident to me that the two universal themes from this book are social responsibility and brotherhood, themes that could be beneficial for anyone, regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status, or race.
I wrote this book for the parents and educators who are constantly searching for literature that uplifts the spirit, that stimulates positive thinking, and presents Black boys as the protagonists/lead characters that they can identify with.
I also wrote this book because I am humbled by the literary legacy of authors like Walter Dean Myers and Julius Lester who, through their books, give boys, especially African American boys, the gift of learning to read and loving to read.