Haynes, David 1955–

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Haynes, David 1955–

PERSONAL: Born August 30, 1955, in St. Louis, MO. Education: Macalester College, St. Paul, MN, B.A., 1977; Hamline University, St. Paul, MN, M.A., 1989.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Harlem Moon, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.

CAREER: C.V. Mosby Publishing Co., St. Louis, MO, associate editor, 1978–81; schoolteacher in St. Paul, MN, 1981–93; writer, 1993–. Morehead State University, visiting scholar, 1994; Minnesota State University, Mankato, visiting writer, 1994; teacher at Writer's Center, Bethesda, MD, 1994–95, and Hamline University, 1995; Warren Wilson College M.F.A. Program for Writers, faculty member, 1996–97. National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, member of adolescent generalist standards committee, beginning 1990, teacher-in-residence, beginning 1994; The Loft Literary Center, member of board of directors, 1985–89; Minnesota Humanities Commission, member of advisory committee for summer Teacher Institute, 1993–94; New Rivers Press, member of board of directors, beginning 1993.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fiction prize from City Pages, 1984, for the short story "Taking Miss Kezee to the Polls"; mentor series winner, The Loft Literary Center, 1985–86; fellowships from Cummington Community of the Arts, 1986–89, and Ragdale Foundation, 1988–96; winner of The Loft International Residency Series, 1989; winner of Regional Writers Contest, Lake Superior Contemporary Writers, 1989; awards from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, 1989–95; Right by My Side was named "one of the best books for young adults" by the American Library Association, 1994, and was a Minnesota Voices Project winner; Minnesota State Arts Board fellowship, 1995; Friends of American Writers Adult Literary Award for Somebody Else's Mama, 1995; The Loft Career Initiative grant, 1996; Haynes was named Granta magazine's Best of Young American Novelists, 1996.


Right by My Side, New Rivers Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1993.

Somebody Else's Mama, Milkweed (Minneapolis, MN), 1995.

Heathens, New Rivers Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1996.

Live at Five, Milkweed (Minneapolis, MN), 1996.

All American Dream Dolls, Milkweed (Minneapolis, MN), 1997.

Business as Usual (West 7th Wildcats 1), illustrations by David Zinn, Milkweed (Minneapolis, MN), 1997.

The Gumma Wars (West 7th Wildcats 2), illustrations by David Zinn, Milkweed (Minneapolis, MN), 1997.

(Editor, with Julie Landsman) Welcome to Your Life: Writings for the Heart of Young America, Milkweed (Minneapolis, MN), 1998.

The Everyday Magic of Walterlee Higgins, Minnesota Center for Book Arts (Minneapolis, MN), 1998.

The Full Matilda, Harlem Moon (New York, NY), 2004.

An essay by Haynes titled "Breckenridge Hills, 63114" was published in the anthology Imagining Home, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis), 1995. Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Other Voices, Glimmer Train, and Colors.

ADAPTATIONS: Two short stories by Haynes were recorded for National Public Radio's "Selected Shorts" program.

SIDELIGHTS: David Haynes is an award-winning African-American novelist and short story writer. His works are noted for the rarity of their depictions of black middle-class life in the American Midwest. "I don't tell the popular narratives, the commercial narratives, that one is supposed to tell as an African-American writer, and there is a price to be paid for that," Haynes told Nathalie Op De Beeck in an interview for Publishers Weekly. While the author's characters occasionally encounter racist people and situations, their biggest problems are common to all humankind. Haynes focuses on themes of love and relationships, right living, and identity crises. Critics have singled out the vivacity of Haynes's characters, and his ability to draw readers into their lives. With the publication of Haynes's second novel, 1995's Somebody Else's Mama, the author garnered praise for his seasoned depiction of Miss Kezee, a feisty elderly woman, as well as for his women characters in general. In addition, critics noted the humor with which Haynes spices his realistic tales of family life. "For melodrama, look elsewhere," instructed a reviewer for the Los Angeles Times Book Review. "[Haynes] belongs to the old realist tradition that believes that everyday life, if truly rendered, is more than exciting enough."

In the novel Right by My Side, fifteen-year-old Marshall Field Finney attempts to regain his bearings after his mother leaves home. Life is further complicated when an enthusiastic teacher convinces Marshall's best friend to become a community activist, and Marshall's father begins dating the mother of one of Marshall's friends. "Haynes offers engaging characters who tackle fundamental issues such as love, family and benevolence," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor. Although Haynes himself does not consider the book young adult fare—"I thought Right by My Side was an adult book," he told Op De Beeck in 1996, three years after the book was published, "and I still think it's an adult book"—School Library Journal contributor Virginia Ryder, like others, predicted: "Teens will adore this book." Indeed, Right by My Side was honored in 1994 by the American Library Association as one of the year's best books for young adults.

Somebody Else's Mama, considered by some critics to be Haynes's first adult novel, concerns the evolving relations between members of a family when Al, the father, decides to run for mayor and his wife, Paula, mother of their twin eleven-year-olds, decides to take in her ailing mother-in-law. The viewpoint of each of these adult characters takes center stage at various times throughout Haynes's narrative, revealing Paula's ambivalent relationship with her own mother, her mother-in-law Miss Kezee's dread of returning to the home she had gladly escaped many years before, and the shifting dynamics between father and mother, husband and wife, from each side. "Mr. Haynes's skillful transitions from Paula's point of view to Miss Kezee's to Al's, and from past to present provide the reader with vivid insights into their complex relationships and their feelings about one another," remarked Jill McCorkle in the New York Times Book Review. A Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor noted that "Haynes is especially good with his women characters." McCorkle paid special tribute to Miss Kezee, noting that "this cantankerous old woman is the book's great strength."

Live at Five, a novel published a year after Somebody Else's Mama, was described by Op De Beeck as Haynes's "most commercial novel," because it takes on some of the race and class issues that many African-American novelists are best known for addressing in their works. Unlike his earlier novels, which are set in Missouri, Live at Five takes place in St. Paul, Minnesota. The main character, an African American named Brandon Wilson, anchors the news for Channel 13. For the sake of better ratings, he moves to a poor neighborhood to report on life in the ghetto. There he meets Nita Sallis, a single mother of three children, part-time student, and caretaker for the building where Brandon finds his new home. What Brandon learns during his stint among the poor contradicts his expectations and results in a novel both "touching" and "wickedly funny," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor.

Heathens, published the same year as Live at Five, has been described as both a collection of interrelated stories and as a novel. Also set in St. Paul, Heathens centers on the Gabriel family: the struggling teacher father; his love for LaDonna, who has been put in jail for her part in a questionable real estate deal; his mother, who enlists the help of the neighbors in her efforts to break up the couple; and their twelve-year-old son, coping with peer pressure and bigoted school officials. Like Haynes's earlier efforts, this work was noted for its humorous yet realistic portrayal of black American family life. "These are the people, like a lot of people in this country, who live on the borders," Haynes told Op De Beeck. "They're not poor, but they're certainly not well off. They don't live in neat ideological boxes." A Publishers Weekly contributor commented on the "wit and even wisdom" with which the author portrays his characters and their problems.

Business as Usual and The Gumma Wars are middle-grade novels and the first installments of a new series by the author. The stories revolve around a group of sixth graders called the West 7th Wildcats. In one installment, the boys learn about business as they make cookies in school for Marketplace Day. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author "shows his expertise in middle-school attitudes, lingo and day-today issues." In a review in Booklist, Bill Ott commented that the series is "off to a promising start."

The author targets an adult audience with his humorous novel All American Dream Dolls. Haynes tells the story of Athena Deneen Wilkerson, a successful ad executive whose life falls apart after her boyfriend leaves her. Athena decides to leave work for a while and moves in with her mother and young half-sister Ciara, who participates in beauty pageants and is likely bulimic. While Athena initially becomes interested in Ciara's pageants, their relationship eventually dissolves into taunting and mutual sabotage. On the other hand, Athena learns to appreciate her mother, whom she had long seen in a negative light. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the novel a "hilarious tale of a woman's emotional collapse and unlikely means of recovery." Ellen Flexman, writing in the Library Journal, described it as "a wildly funny, realistic look at beauty pageants, sibling rivalry, self-esteem, and growing up."

In his novel The Full Matilda, Haynes tells the story of an African American family through the eyes of Matilda Housewright, whose parents worked as domestics to a senator in Washington, DC. After moving with the family to Chicago upon the senator's retirement, Matilda ends up living as a semi-recluse in the family home. She recalls the events of the family's saga, from the initial family resistance to becoming domestics to her eventual efforts to help a great-nephew troubled by drugs and violence. "Haynes has a masterly way of not letting the reader become too comfortable with the serene surface of domestic life," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Vanessa Bush, writing in Booklist, noted that the author reveals the changing "sensibilities as each generation puts its own stamp on the meaning and manner of service." Reviewer's Bookwatch contributor Norman Goldman commented: "Haynes' delightful work of fiction is resplendent with warm dialogue, mesmerizing words and descriptions."



Booklist, April 15, 1995, George Needham, review of Somebody Else's Mama, p. 1479; February 15, 1996, Donna Seaman, review of Live at Five, p. 991; September 1, 1997, Kevin Grandfield, review of All American Dream Dolls, p. 58; October 15, 1997, Bill Ott, reviews of Business as Usual and The Gumma Wars, p. 406; May 1, 1999, Roger Leslie, review of Welcome to Your Life: Writings for the Heart of Young America, p. 1585; February 15, 2002, Brad Hooper, review of All American Dream Dolls, p. 1005; May 15, 2004, Vanessa Bush, review of The Full Matilda, p. 1597.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2004, review of The Full Matilda, p. 460.

Library Journal, September 1, 1997, Ellen Flexman, review of All American Dream Dolls, p. 218; June 1, 2004, Jennifer Baker, review of The Full Matilda, p. 120.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 24, 1995, review of Somebody Else's Mama, p. 6.

New York Times Book Review, June 18, 1995, Jill McCorkle, review of Somebody Else's Mama, p. 21; May 5, 1996, p. 22.

Publishers Weekly, March 1, 1993, review of Right by My Side, p. 53; April 10, 1995, review of Somebody Else's Mama, p. 55; February 19, 1996, review of Live at Five, p. 205; March 18, 1996, review of Heathens, p. 60; April 22, 1996, Nathalie Op De Beeck, interview with author, pp. 48-49; June 23, 1997, reviews of Business as Usual and The Gumma Wars, p. 93; August 4, 1997, review of All American Dream Dolls, p. 67.

Reviewer's Bookwatch, August, 2004, Norman Goldman, review of The Full Matilda.

School Library Journal, December, 1993, Virginia Ryder, review of Right by My Side, p. 149.

Texas Monthly, May, 2004, Jeff McCord and Mike Shea, review of The Full Matilda, p. 72.


Best Reviews, http://thebestreviews.com/ (May 25, 2006), Norman Goldman, review of The Full Matilda.

Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org/ (May 25, 2006), biographical information on the author.

Random House Web site, http://www.randomhouse.com/ (May 25, 2006), interview with the author.