Darby, Mary Ann 1954-

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DARBY, Mary Ann 1954-


Born February 28, 1954, in Inglewood, CA; daughter of Lou (a roofing and building contractor and fiddle-player) and Nadia (a homemaker) Ritchey; married Creg Darby (a scientist), December 21, 1985; children: Patrick and John (twins). Ethnicity: "White." Education: Whitman College, B.A., 1976; San Jose State University, M.A., 2001. Hobbies and other interests: Reading.


Home—2233 Rockcreek Trail, Hoover, AL 35226. E-mail—[email protected].


High school teacher of English and social studies, Corvallis, MT, 1976-77, Klamath Falls, OR, 1978-82, and Seattle, WA, 1982-88; middle-school teacher of language arts, Renton, WA, 1993-98, and Los Altos, CA, beginning 1998; Jefferson State Community College, Birmingham, AL, English teacher. University of Washington, Seattle, guest lecturer, 1997. City of Bellevue, part-time employee, 1990-92.


National Council of Teachers of English, Assembly on Literature for Adolescents.


Teacher Recognition Award, Johns Hopkins University; Renton Rotary Teacher of the Month Award; Books for Kids grant.


(With Miki Pryne) Hearing All the Voices: Multicultural Books for Adolescents, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 2002.

Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including Washington English Journal, International Journal for Teachers of English Writing Skills, and English International.


Updating Hearing All the Voices: Multicultural Books for Adolescents; a project on science fiction, fantasy, and women in young adult literature.


Mary Ann Darby told CA: "After teaching English for twelve years at the high school level, I took some time off to be at home after the birth of our twins. When I went back to teaching, I ended up at a middle school, and my first thought was, 'What good books are out there for middle school students?' That started me on a quest that I am still following: finding good books for all students. I've read hundreds of books for young adults in the past eight years and have been continually amazed and delighted at the breadth of good writing and good literature on so many topics for middle and high school students. When my colleague and best friend, Miki Pryne Willa, discovered my interest, she countered with the idea that students want to find someone like themselves in books, so we needed to look for books that represented every culture. At that point, we started to consider our own ideas about what culture means: students who grow up in a non-traditional family, living with mom and grandma, certainly have a culture; students who have a physical challenge in their lives certainly have a culture. So the quest grew to find, not only wonderful books, but wonderful books representing as many cultures as we could locate and read. I gradually gained a reputation with teachers and students as someone who read a lot and loved to talk about books. At the last school where I taught, students whom I didn't know would walk into my room before and after school and during breaks to ask me for book recommendations. I always started by asking two questions. 'What is one book that you really enjoyed reading? What interests do you have?' By asking those questions, I could usually pull a half-dozen titles or so off my shelves to hand to the student, or I could give him or her a list to take to the library. I love putting books into the hands of young adults. I love even more having them come back asking please, could they have another good book. Engendering the love of reading is my goal. It makes me happy.

"So where is the writing in all of this? Miki and I went out to conferences with our message of finding books for every student and found receptive audiences. One woman approached us and asked us to write an article for her magazine. We agreed and embarked on writing one of our first articles together. Miki and I can finish each other's sentences when we talk and are close to that in our writing as well. The article made us do a lot of thinking, and many drafts exchanged between us before we were satisfied with our first article. After a number of conferences, we were asked why we hadn't written a book dealing with our ideas and book recommendations. Thus, repeated requests from colleagues and the thought of getting all these exciting and wonderful books into the hands of many students were our primary motivators for writing Hearing All the Voices: Multicultural Books for Adolescents. Even though by then I had moved to a different state and no longer saw Miki every day, we e-mailed our ideas back and forth and had goals and chapter ideas for our books, as well as a good start on our annotated bibliography, which was to be the heart of the book. Meanwhile I had applied to review books for Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) and in my biography, I mentioned I was working on a book about books for those who work with young adults. Amazingly enough, VOYA put me in touch with their parent company, Scarecrow Press. Soon thereafter, I told Miki we had a publisher interested in our idea, and we needed to work up a formal proposal now!

"All of the book was written while Miki and I were working full-time in middle schools in different states. We each wrote chapters, then we edited each other's work. We each wrote annotations and then exchanged annotations in order to add or fine-tune each other's ideas. I loved coming home after teaching all day and sitting down to the computer to work on our book. (Cook dinner? Whoops! Just let me finish this page.…) There was immense satisfaction in seeing a dream of seven years actually taking form! I used my lunch breaks at school to look up publication information on the Library of Congress Web site, for, although I had long ago started a note card system for the books I read, I had not even dreamed of needing extra data like publication information, or of using them for anything beyond my own reference. I would wake up in the middle of the night and mentally sort books into a new 'literary circle' category. Someone would mention an idea at a staff meeting, and I would be off mentally creating another cross-curricular use for the books we were touting. One of my personal writing lessons dealt with indices. Somehow, I thought they were magically created by book publishers. I was fairly sure there were wands and potions involved. When I learned we would need to create any indices that we wanted, I volunteered for the task and, sans wand, tried to decide logically what would work. That was a challenge!

"Because Miki and I had been talking about our ideas for so long and had read over 500 books already, our book came together in roughly six months. Writing out the ideas was a joy! One of the hardest parts was drawing the line on other books to include in the annotated bibliography section. Writing had cut into our reading time (and both of us were also in graduate programs along with our jobs), but when Angela Johnson or Chris Crutcher or one of our dozens of other favorite authors wrote a new book, how could we ignore it? Actually, it was formatting the indices that made me finally throw up the red flag. I just didn't want to mess with that huge database any more!

"We deliberately kept the tone of our book fairly informal, which has garnered some criticism from a source or two. But we wanted our book to be user-friendly, and the whole undertaking was so personal to us that we wrote it in our own voices, as though we were talking to our colleagues or parents of students. We truly want every student to be able to find a book to enjoy, in which he or she can discover someone who has similar struggles or similar questions, a book with a character who has a life that touches the reader in some way, a book that shows young adults everywhere the joy of reading. One of my colleagues has copies of Hearing All the Voices in her classroom, and she told me that her students come up and say, 'I need to see that book—the one that talks about books!' Students are looking at something I created to get ideas for what to read. Is that exciting? Incredibly so.

"What now? I am continuing to keep a card for every young adult book I read. It's a habit. I am trying to spend more time writing, whether it is in my journal or at the computer, and I have paper and computer files started for any and all writing ideas I have. Seeing one dream come to life makes me believe others are possible, too. I hope to collaborate with Miki on more projects. Living life, working, and writing, too, are a lot to juggle. But when you write a book, other people can pick it up and read it. Is that cool or WHAT?"



Booklist, September 1, 2002, Sharon Cohen, review of Hearing All the Voices: Multicultural Books for Adolescents, p. 172.