Bobby Burns

Creative Nonfiction Writer

3936 E. 32nd Street
Tucson, AZ 85711

Author's Bio

Bobby’s the author of the best-selling non-fiction book Shelter: One Man’s Journey from homelessness to hope- published by the University of Arizona Press in 1998. The book is now in its second printing. It’s a true story about his life living in a Tucson Homeless Shelter in the 1990’s. Chapters from his book have been adopted in several college textbooks.

Bobby Burns arrived in Tucson, Arizona, with a few dollars in his pocket and no place to live. Without family, without a job, he had nowhere to go but a homeless shelter.

How did a college graduate find himself so close to life on the streets? In a voice that is startling for its simplicity and utter honesty, Burns tells the story of how he slipped into homelessness, how he learned what it means to live in a place where nobody will notice if you disappear, and how he emerged to tell his story. Bobby's diary of 41 days without a home brings readers into the world of a homeless shelter. Shelter is filled with the sights and sounds of homelessness. Shelter life is patterned by meals provided by church volunteers, lines for soap and clean towels, the repeated meticulous washing of hands by an obsessive-compulsive resident, the rare pleasure of a fried chicken dinner, the illicit smell of marijuana within the shelter. Burns witnesses the residents' struggles with drugs, alcohol, and disability, and he wonders daily whether he will have the courage to emerge from this life. Bobby's diary expresses the full range of emotions of a homeless person: anger, self-pity, pride, humility, shame, depression, and optimism. These are not contradictions; taken together they represent the real feelings provoked by homelessness. But with rare inner courage, Bobby stokes the fires of hope within himself, marking the days in his journal to keep himself from sliding deeper into a spiral of despair. Bobby confronts his own stereotypes about the homeless and learns firsthand what it means to struggle daily for survival and for dignity. He learns greater courage and he learns greater kindness. He is given food and a bed for 41 days, but he finds shelter on his own, deep within himself.

He currently writes for the Arizona Informant Newspaper, a Phoenix weekly African American newspaper. Bobby earned a masters degree from Northern Arizona University and a BA degree from Arizona State University. He’s employed with a community college in Tucson, Arizona.

Publications & Prizes

Shelter: One Man's Journey from Homelessness to Hope (University of Arizona Press, 1998)
Louisiana Review
Prizes won: 

None at this time.

Personal Favorites

What I'm reading now: 
Notes of a Native Son by James Bladwin, The White Album by Joan Didion

More Information

Gives readings: 
Travels for readings: 
Identifies as: 
African American
Prefers to work with: 
Fluent in: 
Born in: 
Raised in: 
Phoenix, AZ
Please note: All information in the Directory is provided by the listed writers or their representatives.
Last update: Dec 10, 2014