Jones, Traci L.
Jones, Traci L.
Born in Monmouth, IL; daughter of Regis F. (a politician) and Ada L. Groff; married; husband's name Tony; children: Desiree, Andrew, Isaiah, Brooke. Education: Bachelor's degree (psychology); attended University of Denver.
Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award, for Standing against the Wind.
Standing against the Wind (young adult novel), Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2006.
Traci L. Jones won the 2006 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award for her debut work of young-adult fiction, Standing against the Wind. The novel concerns Patrice Williams, an inner-city teen struggling to adjust to her own often-difficult circumstances. "I think there are some emotions that most preteens and teens go through, regardless of their economic status or their geographic location," Jones told an interviewer on the Embracing the Child Web site. "I just tapped into some of the feelings I remembered going through and wrote about them as honestly as I could."
Born in Monmouth, Illinois, Jones was raised in Denver, Colorado, in the same home where she now lives with her husband and four children. The daughter of former Colorado State Senator Regis F. Groff and Ada L. Groff, Jones developed an interest in reading and writing at an early age. "I read everywhere—in the car, at basketball games, at football games, at parties, even during church," she remarked on her home page. "Where ever I went I had a book with me." Jones began writing one Christmas after she received a manual typewriter as a present from her mother. She later served on the school paper at her high school but found that she preferred penning fiction to nonfiction. Her dreams of becoming an author were almost dashed in college, however, when her counselor, a professor who also taught English, harshly criticized her work. Disheartened, Jones changed her major to psychology, stopped reading books for pleasure, and did not register for another English course until her senior year. After the birth of her first child, though, Jones decided to take a writing course at the University of Denver. As she stated on her home page, "My love for writing returned with a vengeance and I haven't quit writing yet."
Standing against the Wind, which Jones began while attending the University of Denver, centers on Patrice, a studious eighth grader who has been transplanted from her grandmother's home in Georgia to live with her aunt in a Chicago housing project. Patrice must endure the harsh Midwestern winter and daily harassment from gang members, yet she continues to excel academically—so much so that the principal at her school encourages her to apply for a scholarship to a prestigious African-American boarding school. Patrice gets support and assistance from an unlikely source: Monty, a troubled neighbor who takes Patrice under his wing. According to Rainbow Lightfoot-Mayer, writing in the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, "Patrice must find her voice and stand up for herself and her beliefs. As she finds her own strength (and it takes a while), she refuses to abandon her values and blend in to the crowd." "I love the fact that Patrice knows her strengths and is steadfast in the face of peer pressure," Jones remarked in her Embracing the Child interview, adding, "Patrice would rather be smart than socially accepted, which is a hard choice for teens to make."
Standing against the Wind received praise from a number of critics. In the words of a Kirkus Reviews contributor, the author "vividly and painfully portrays the deadening effects of poverty, hopelessness and dysfunctional and ever-changing family relationships." In School Library Journal, Faith Brautigan commented that readers "will appreciate the strength that underlies Patrice's quiet and unassuming exterior," and Hazel Rochman, writing in Booklist, described Standing against the Wind as a "gripping story of a contemporary kid who works to make her dreams come true."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, July 1, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of Standing against the Wind, p. 60.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 2006, Karen Coats, review of Standing against the Wind, p. 175.
Horn Book, March-April, 2007, "Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award," p. 220.
Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, November, 2006, Rainbow Lightfoot-Mayer, review of Standing against the Wind, p. 243.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2006, review of Standing against the Wind, p. 956.
School Library Journal, November, 2006, Faith Brautigan, review of Standing against the Wind, p. 138.
Voice of Youth Advocates, February 2007, Sherrie Williams, review of Standing against the Wind, p. 527.
Embracing the Child Web site,http://www.embracingthechild.org/ (December 20, 2007), interview with Jones.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux Web site,http://www.fsgkidsbooks.com/ (December 20, 2007), "Traci L. Jones."
Traci L. Jones Home Page,http://traciljones.com (December 20, 2007).