Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Paulette Jiles

by Steven Williams
Paulette Jiles black and white photographPoet and writer Paulette Jiles was born (1943) and raised in Salem, Missouri, a town set within in the Missouri Ozarks. After earning a degree in Spanish Literature from the University of Illinois she moved to Canada in 1969, and now has dual citizenship with Canada. She spent eventually spent ten years in Canada. In 1974, while working as a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. journalist, she was sent to a village in remote northern Ontario. She eventually spent seven years in the Canadian north working with native communication groups among the northern Cree and Ojibway peoples. She began her career as a published author with the acceptance of some of her poetry for publication in Mindscapes in 1971. In 1984 her collection of poems, Celestial Navigation, won the Governor-General's Literary Award, the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, and the Gerald Lampert Award. In 1986, her chase movie spoof novel Sitting in the Club Car Drinking Rum and Karma-Kola was nominated for an Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. In addition to fiction and poetry, she is also the author of two memoirs Cousins (1992) and North Spirit: Travels among the Cree and Ojibway Nations and Their Star Maps (1995). Her first novel, Enemy Women (2002), was internationally acclaimed and won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. She currently lives near San Antonio, Texas.

Waterloo Express by Pualette Jiles front cover

Waterloo Express (1973)
A collection of poetry based on the author's travels through Africa and into Canada.

Roses House black and white publicity still photographRose's House, a screenplay based on a story by Clay Borris (1977)
A painfully realistic film based on a story by the film director, Clay Borris, relating his memories of life in his mother's boarding house in Cabbagetown, Toronto, a working-class district of the city. It is a docudrama that centers around the main character, Rose, as she works to manage the boarding house and its mix of marginalized people. She has to deal with situations including bootlegging, violence, and stealing. To handle these sort of problems, she finds herself handing out her own idiosyncratic style of justice. Her own authority comes into question though when she becomes involved in a heated dispute with a social worker over her son's theft of a bicycle.

Celestial Navigation by Paulette Jiles front coverCelestial Navigation (1984)
A collection of philosophical, ironic and witty poetry nobable for its ability to provide intense and unambigious emotional insights. Their writer dwells on a range of subjects including the politics of childhood and love and explorations of the rigours and blessings of living in the far north of Canada. This collection was a recipient of Governor-General's Literary Award, the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, and the Gerald Lampert Award.

The Golden Hawks by Paulette Jiles front coverThe Golden Hawks (1985)
A juvenile novel about a group of friends who call themselves The Golden Hawks. The story centers on their efforts to create a clubhouse for themselves. They are living in a new housing development on the edge of a Canadian city and so there initially does not seem much to work with. First they try to make their to use the bedroom of one of their members. Because of hammer holes in the walls, the parents angrily send them outside. They then decide to do their own building from scrap wood. The only local source for scrap nearby is an empty apartment building. It is too spooke for them though and they are scared away before they can salvage enough material. In the end they decide to try to make money in some way so that they can buy the materials they need to build the clubhouse. This book is a title in the publisher's Where We Live series.

The Late Great Human Road Show by Paulette Jiles front cover

The Late Great Human Road Show (1986)
A post-nuclear war science fiction novel set in a startingly pastoral Toronto that works specificially because of the author's ironic wit.

The Blackwater Book (1988)
This book is Jiles' American debut and is a compilation drawn from a wide range of her prose and poetry writing.

The Jesse James Poems (1988)
An indiosyncratic retelling of the story of Jesse James based both on the traditional storyline of her native Missouri blended with Canadian poetry traditions.

Sudden Miracles, Eight Women Poets edited by Rhea Tregebov front cover

Song to the Rising Sun: A Collection (1989) and her contributions to Sudden Miracles: Eight Women Poets (1991) reflect Jiles ongoing efforts to work writing as a poet.

Cousins (1992)
This is Jiles first book focused on personal memories. It is primarily a midlife rite-of-passage journal beginning with Jiles return trip back to Missiouri and the start of a pationate romance. Despite the philosophical differences of the two lovers, he agrees to accompany Jiles on a journey into the American South. Jiles had decided to make this trip in order to interview her cousins from her father's side of the family in an effort to unravel family mythology and well as provide her with greater insight into her own background. She weaves travel anecdotes with verbatim interviews with the cousins. There are also passages that successfully recreate the life of her ongoing love affair with its mutual passion and fiery political arguments. This book is a surprisingly creative memoir and is refreshingly unsentimental.

Flying Lesson: Selected Poems (1995)
A selection of the author's poetry from her previous ten years or so of work. Most of these are set in the frozen interior of the Canadian north emphasizing her preference for lyrically narrative descriptions of the landscape. These include a series of poems about the bawdy-house days of the ragtime composer Scott Joplin.

North Spirit, Sojourns Among the Cree and Ojibway and Their Star Maps by Paulette Jiles front coverNorth Spirit: Sojourns Among the Cree and Ojibway and Their Star Maps (1996)
In 1974, Jiles was send by the CBC where she was working as a journalist to a remote northern Ontario village inhabited primarily by Anishinabek Nation symbolCree and Ojibay peoples. This experience eventually drew her into eight years working with native communication groups among the northern Cree and Ojibway peoples. This book is a memoir made up of vignettes of what life is like so far north. She is particularly fascinated on the emerging impact of technology on the traditions and mythology of the native people. A unifying thread for this book is the recurring Anishinabe peoples' mythology about Oda-Ka-Daun, or Stern Paddler, and the meaning of his cosmic vessel's passage the heavens.

Sitting in the Club Car Drinking Rum and Karma-Kola: Sitting in the Club Car Drinking Rum and Karma-Kola by Paulette Jiles 10th anniversary edition front coverA Manual of Etiquette for Ladies Crossing Canada by Train (1996)
A detective fiction and chase movie spoof about a woman who is in many ways quite similar to Katharine Hepburn and who is leaving America for Canada. Her hopes are to find her own true love while traveling on the train between Vancouver and the east. She soon finds out her man who turns out to be the detective who has been hred to follow her. It has been described as a combination old-fashioned love story and period detective novel.

Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles Canadian edition front coverEnemy Women (2002)
A critically well-received and bestselling novel set in the Missouri Ozarks during the Civil War. It focuses on the experiences of an eighteen year old young woman after renegade Union militiamen attacks her family home, burning everything, and taking her father away as a prisoner. The young woman sets out to rescue her father but her efforts get her labeled a Confederate spy and she ends up in a terrible women's prison that happens to be run by a decent Union officer. He becomes infatuated with her and heops her escape, agreeing to find each other once the war is over. They set out on their separate journeys and, especially the young woman, experience the despiration and violence associated with a section of the America that experienced the Civil War as a violent guerilla war of uncommon savagery. Jiles developed the story from her own family's stories about the war and prefaces each chapter with actual Civil War letters and documents that relate to the Ozark Region's experiences of the war.

Stormy Weather (2007)
Stormy Weather by Paulette Jiles front coverA novel about one family's four strong women toughing out the years of the Gread Deression in the Texas dust bowl. The story begins before the Crash, with the family living an intenerate life in oil field boom town after another as the father work delivering oil well pipe. His dissolute gambling, drinking, and carrying on with other women create friction in the family until his death drives the women back too the family's abandoned farm on the Brazos River in Central Texas. There they work to rebuild it into a working farm and experience all the trials of rural life in those years: drought, hail storms, dust storms, land-tax debts, and grinding poverty. It is not a completely dismal life though and the author recreates the popular diversions of the period as radio shows, horse racing enthusiasm, and wildcat oil speculation. The women overcome the difficulties they encounter and reach a not always grudging accomodation with the place where they live.

Newer Article: Rosa Martha Villarreal, Tejana author, editor and publisher


Older Article: James Lee Burke, a mystery novel craftsman with New Orleans connections

Creative Commons License
Paulette Jiles, Missouri poet and writer by Steven Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available by contacting Steven Williams through Bookmarc's BookmarcsOnline.

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