- Posted January 10, 2014 by
Old woman cleans up her neighborhood, finds an award-winning novel
“The book was born the morning I looked out and saw the squiggles, words and a couple of red and blue phalluses desecrating the corner mailbox under my window,” Barney recalls. “I was furious. My neighborhood, my sense of peace had been violated.” For the next year Barney walked the streets of NW Portland, schlepping a shopping bag filled with spray, scrapers and rags as she attacked the tags and graffiti blooming on the mail receptacles lining her streets.
When someone walking by asked, “Why? They just keep doing it.” Barney began her usual rant about “midnight artists,” but she realized that she did not have an answer for a few of her own questions: Why did graffiti make her so angry? Why did kids armed with spray cans and pens leave their marks on public spaces? And who were these kids, in the first place?
Research online and in the nearby park, its benches resting places for transients, resulted a thriller, Graffiti Grandma, the story of a cranky old woman, a runaway girl, a damaged policeman, a band of homeless teenagers, and a five-year-old who grows up to terrorize all of them.
Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review: “Barney weaves a multifaceted narrative with quick shift in time and focus to show how flawed individuals overcome, or are destroyed by, failed relationships. (October 2013)
Kirkus Reviews in its starred review: “Ostensibly about a serial killer, Barney’s novel is about much more than that. It’s also the story of people who are down but not out and a rumination on family, courage and responsibility--a book that reverberates long after the last page. A gripping book with compelling characters who don’t want your pity. (2013)
Learn more about the grandmother who wrote Graffiti Grandma, sample its first pages, and read Barney’s blog describing the months leading to the publication of the book at www.jobarneywrites.com.