In an eloquent simplistic style reminiscent of Sistah Souljah, debut author Banke Awopetu-McCullough, brings readers along for a first year teacher’s journey in an inner-city school. Far from the typical account of the “super hero teacher”, ALWAYS WANT MORE, chronicles the complicated nature of education reform and the personal toll that it takes on everyone involved.
McCullough’s experience as a student and teacher with the Rochester City School District gives her a unique perspective that provides a refreshing twist to the urban fiction coming of age story. Never before has this type of tale been told from the teacher’s point of view. Readers get an upfront look of the flaws and struggles of those entrusted to instruct.
Description of Book:
“Always Want More” Tracy Mitchell’s rise in the hip-hop journalism world was swift and fierce. Having secured a position at her dream publication, Real, she hopes to write stories that make an impact. While the assignments are not what she envisioned, Tracy is lured in to the luxurious lifestyle of the hip-hop powerhouse subjects she meets. After a crazy, drug fueled night with one particularly famous artist, Tracy is blacklisted from the hip-hop community and banished to her home town of Rochester, New York. Tracy has a choice—she can resent what has happened or start fresh. Tracy chooses to try and make a difference; something she failed to do in the big city.
Teaching English at the failing public school system, Tracy is finally on the right track. Just as things are falling into place, Tracy meets Oxford Quinn, otherwise known as “X.” Tracy falls into the same whirlwind lifestyle of her past, in the meantime unearthing the darker side of her hometown. Can Tracy pull herself out of her pattern of excess to finally live a life of peace and meaning? Or will she always want more?
Biography: Banke Awopetu-McCullough is a native Rochesterian with a Bachelors of Arts in Drama and African and African–American Studies from the University of Virginia and a Masters in Adolescent Education from Roberts Wesleyan. McCullough’s literary style has most been influenced by hip hop music and classic African-American literature.
Get to now the author:
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
-I wanted to write for as long as I can remember. As an ugly duckling and socially awkward, I spent lots of time alone with books. When I wasn’t alone, I was often mischievous and one of my punishments was to stand in the corner for hours. There, I started dreaming up stories and it wasn’t long before I was writing them down.
What is the greatest obstacle you had to overcome and how did you overcome it?
-I can’t say that I’ve had a big obstacle. Its life, so there’s always something to learn and a mistake to make, but I wouldn’t really call those obstacles. I’ve learned and continue to relearn to just go with the flow and trust my gut.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
-I listen and watch everyone and everything around me. So when I go to write, stories just pour out. Sometimes it comes from personal experiences, but mostly it’s what I imagine when I look at people and try to figure out their story. I love to use beautiful prose when capturing those stories, but I also like a quick pace. I think that’s what people appreciate the most about my writing.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
-I learned that marketing a book is harder than writing the damn thing!
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
-I do everything I can to be accessible to my readers, so I hear from them often. What I get the most is “I couldn’t put the book down” and then they blame me for missing sleep or whatever. I love it. They give me great energy which I try to give back. I don’t take my responsibility as a writer lightly.
Do you have any suggestions to help others become a better writer? If so, what are they?
-The writing process is very personal, so there really is no one size fits all advice. But I will say this: be true to your voice. You want to read the works of authors you admire, but you never want to imitate their style or be intimidated to explore your own. Me for instance, I read brilliant authors and that used to scare me off from my own writing. It was like, “Damn, I’ll never be able to write like that.” But I know now that my voice is mine alone and there are people out there who need to hear it.
Decades from now when people say Banke the Author–what will they say?
-I think about this sometimes, wonder what legacy I’m leaving. I’m as flawed as my characters, but I do everything I can to highlight the beauty that’s within us all. I hope people see that. I hope people read my writing and feel the pain that births such beauty.
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