Barnes, Joyce Annette 1958-
BARNES, Joyce Annette 1958-
PERSONAL: Born March 6, 1958, in Dayton, OH; daughter of John Watson Moss and Frances (Webster) Moss Moore; married James D. Brown, Jr. (divorced, 1991); married David B. Barnes, April 19, 1992; children: Justin Sterling Brown, Pilar Corrie Louise Brown, Malik Williams (stepson). Education: University of Southern California, B.A., 1981; Morgan State University, M.A., 1986.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Dial Books, 345 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
CAREER: Catonsville Community College, Catonsville, MD, assistant professor of English, 1986—; Agitprov Players, Catonsville, creative director, 1991—.
MEMBER: Middle Atlantic Writers Association (executive committee member).
The Baby Grand, the Moon in July, and Me (adapted from the play The Baby Grand), Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin (New York, NY), 1994.
Amistad (junior novel, adapted from a film by Steven Spielberg) DreamWorks, 1997.
Promise Me the Moon, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1997.
The Metamorphosis, Morgan State University Press, 1984.
The Baby Grand (television play), first broadcast on WMAR-TV, Baltimore, MD, 1984.
Whatcha Gonna Do?, first produced by Agitprov Players, Catonsville, MD, 1991.
Brute Absolute, first produced by Agitprov Players, Catonsville, 1993.
Not Another World, first produced by Agitprov Players, Catonsville, 1994.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A play, The Making of "The Mixx."
SIDELIGHTS: Joyce Annette Barnes is a playwright and college professor who has written two novels about a girl who wants to become the first African American woman to land on the moon. The first novel, The Baby Grand, the Moon in July, and Me, is based on Barnes's play The Baby Grand and introduces readers to Annie Armstrong, who is ten years old in 1969 when she watches the Apollo 11 space mission on television. Annie hopes to follow the example of her ambitious nineteen-year-old brother Matty, who plays piano and wants to be a jazz musician. But Matty's determination to succeed brings him into conflict with his parents, after he buys a baby grand piano on credit. Their father kicks him out of the house, and Annie must look for a way to help Matty. In a review for Booklist, Hazel Rochman regretted that the storyline "creaks with all kinds of coincidence and contrivance" but admired Annie's narrative. A Publishers Weekly critic liked the novel's "convincing dialogue, insightful characterization and . . . satisfying resolution."
Annie's story continues in Promise Me the Moon, where she is now in the eighth grade and breaking up with her boyfriend, Claude. Despite her concern about being called an "egg head" by classmates, she joins a special science class to further her academic goals. Other distractions are her concern about her appearance and the resulting arguments with her parents about wanting to wear an Afro and getting her ears pierced. A trip to visit her brother in New York renews her focus, but that is again challenged when Annie is rejected by a magnet school. "Young teens will identify with Annie's conflicts and her setbacks," remarked Hazel Rochman in a review for Booklist; however, the critic was concerned that the girl's accomplishments were rather "contrived." A Publishers Weekly writer noted that Annie was "sensitive enough to be endearing and rebellious enough to be interesting."
Joyce Annette Barnes has commented: "Whether I am writing novels for young readers or plays for a wider audience, my hope is always to tell stories that present a 'particular' truth, a slice of reality cut from my own background and experiences. For some readers, the 'reality' is known, and their pleasure comes, I hope, from recognition, validation in art of their experiences. For others, I hope to introduce to them a reality with which they are unfamiliar, and to recreate it so honestly and creditably that these readers can say, 'I see—I understand.'
"In a way, I am attempting to educate even as a writer, although in no way do I wish, as a writer, to be a lecturer. Instead, I want my work to have impact, to provoke thought, to change perceptions, and ultimately—through the beauty and power of language—to entertain. I have not yet realized all my goals as a writer, but I am an optimist, a believer in great possibilities. After all, in my lifetime, men have walked on the moon. There will always be for me something new to try, something else to learn, some level of greatness to which I'll aspire, another story to tell."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of The Baby Grand, the Moon in July, and Me p. 1078; November 15, 1996, Rochman, review of Promise Me the Moon, p. 585.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 1994, Deborah Stevenson, review of Promise Me the Moon, p. 147.
Publishers Weekly, February 7, 1994, review of The Baby Grand, the Moon in July, and Me, p. 88; December 16, 1996, review of Promise Me the Moon, p. 60.
School Library Journal, March, 1994, Margaret C. Howell, "Book Review: Grades 3-6," p. 220.*