Jackson, Shelley 1963-

views updated

Jackson, Shelley 1963-


Born 1963, in the Philippines; immigrated to the United States; naturalized U.S. citizen. Education: Stanford University, A.B.; Brown University, M.F.A.


Home—Brooklyn, NY. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer and illustrator.


Electronic Literature Award, 2001, for Patchwork Girl.


Patchwork Girl, by Mary/Shelley & herself (hypertext novel), Eastgate Systems, 1995.

(And illustrator) The Old Woman and the Wave (juvenile), DK Ink (New York, NY), 1998.

(And illustrator) Sophia, the Alchemist's Dog (juvenile), DK Ink (New York, NY), 2000, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2002.

The Melancholy of Anatomy (stories), Anchor (New York, NY), 2002.

Half Life: A Novel, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.


Nancy Farmer, Do You Know Me? (juvenile), Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1993.

Rebecca C. Jones, Great Aunt Martha (juvenile), Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Cynthia DeFelice, Willy's Silly Grandma (juvenile), Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Kim Siegelson, Escape South (juvenile), Golden Books (New York, NY), 2000, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.

Kelly Link, Magic for Beginners, Small Beer Press (Northhampton, MA), 2005.

Janice N. Harrington, The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County (juvenile), Farrar, Straus and Giroux (New York, NY), 2008.

Contributor to periodicals, including Grand Street, Paris Review, Conjunctions, Fence, and Kenyon Review.


Shelley Jackson creates fiction rife with base imagery and characters exhibiting disturbing behavior. Her works include Patchwork Girl, by Mary/Shelley & herself, a hypertext novel that has drawn comparisons to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. In Jackson's novel, Mary Shelley has actually fashioned a female creature similar to the gruesome male monstrosity featured in her own novel. Shelley's female creation, fashioned like the creature in Frankenstein from various body parts, becomes obsessed with her creator and tracks her to America. During one notable episode in Jackson's tale, the ungainly female creation loses control of her various parts and is compelled to reassemble herself.

The Melancholy of Anatomy is a collection of short stories that Judith Rosen, writing in Publishers Weekly, deemed to be full of "corporeal fantasies." The collection includes "Eggs," wherein a middle-aged woman secretes from one of her tear ducts an egg that grows as large as a boulder, and "Nerve," in which a deranged individual reaps nerve fibers and fashions them into hats. Susan Salter Reynolds, writing in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, proclaimed The Melancholy of Anatomy "subversive." A Publishers Weekly reviewer conceded that they are also "cleverly imagined."

Half Life: A Novel is Jackson's story of Nora Olney, a twenty-eight-year-old conjoined twin, whose twin, Blanche, has been comatose for fifteen years. The story takes place in an America where so-called "twofers" are common, possibly because of radioactive fallout. Nora travels to London, where through the help of the Unity Foundation, she will have Blanche surgically separated from her body, which will result in Blanche's death. When Nora arrives, however, unexplainable events, including the fact that her own body seems to act out on its own, lead her to suspect that Blanche is trying to communicate with her. Booklist contributor John Green called the novel "a clever and surprisingly moving exploration of identity and connectedness." "Jackson has imagination to burn," commented Tania Barnes in the Library Journal, "and her writing, strange as it is, stuns."

Jackson is also an illustrator and writer of children's books. In 1998 she produced The Old Woman and the Wave, in which an irritable old woman discovers the magical properties of a huge wave that has hovered over her home for some time. Lisa Shea, writing in the New York Times Book Review, proclaimed the tale "wistful, wishful." A reviewer in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books described Jackson's book as being a "modern fable." The latter critic acknowledged Jackson's illustrations as "surrealistic collage paintings … with splashes of color and myriads of shapes and viewpoints."

Jackson is also the illustrator and author of Sophia, the Alchemist's Dog. When a royal alchemist fails to meet the expectations of the king, who pays him to turn lead into gold, his dog, Sophia, who has been feeling neglected, takes on the task and succeeds, with the help of an angel and an imp. Meanwhile, the alchemist searches for the key to making gold by painting and sketching his nightmares and visions, which the king then recognizes as being the work of a talented artist. Since gold no longer seems to be important, Sophie hides her secret in a mouse hole to be forgotten, and the alchemist becomes the royal painter, mixing egg yolks with pigment to create his gold. Jackson uses acrylics and pen-and-ink drawings and what Booklist contributor Karin Snelson called "Leonardo da Vinci-style sketches and scribbles." Snelson wrote: "Jackson's artwork shines."

In addition to both illustrating and writing children's books, Jackson has provided artwork for books by other storytellers. She served as illustrator of Nancy Farmer's Do You Know Me?, which recounts the culture clash that ensues when a family in Zimbabwe hosts an uncle from Mozambique. "Universal themes … are central to this novel," declared Lyn Miller-Lachmann in the School Library Journal. Lois F. Anderson reported in Horn Book that Do You Know Me? "manages to deal with serious issues and … provoke laughter." A Publishers Weekly reviewer affirmed that "Jackson's spirited … illustrations exhibit a distinctive personality."

Jackson also supplied illustrations for Rebecca C. Jones's Great Aunt Martha, wherein a girl sees her playtime options limited as a consequence of a relative's visit. Jody McCoy, writing in School Library Journal, noted Jackson's "lively illustrations," and Martha V. Parravano, in her Horn Book analysis, remarked on the "strong, stylized illustrations that successfully play with perspective." Further praise came from a Publishers Weekly critic who declared that "Jackson's illustrations are marked by vibrant colors and varied perspectives."

Cynthia DeFelice's Willy's Silly Grandma impressed Nancy Vasilakis, who wrote in Horn Book about Jackson's "bold ink and crayon vignettes." A Publishers Weekly critic stated that Jackson's artwork "impressively manages to both scare and comfort." Jackson also illustrated Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners, a collection of surreal tales that feature zombies, ghost dogs, rabbits that camp out on a lawn and haunt a house, and a convenience store clerk who wears "experimental C.I.A. pajamas."

Jackson is developing a project she calls Skin, which she describes on her Home Page as being "a mortal work of art: a story tattooed on readers' bodies, one word at a time." More than two thousand tattooed participants are expected to be part of Jackson's project.



Booklist, April 1, 1993, Janice Del Negro, review of Do You Know Me?, p. 143; May 15, 1998, Susan Dove Lempke, review of The Old Woman and the Wave, p. 1633; February 15, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of Escape South, p. 1153; October 1, 2002, Karin Snelson, review of Sophia, the Alchemist's Dog, p. 336; June 1, 2005, Ray Olson, review of Magic for Beginners, p. 1768; July 1, 2006, John Green, review of Half Life: A Novel, p. 30.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 1998, review of The Old Woman and the Wave, p. 247.

Horn Book, September-October, 1993, Lois F. Anderson, review of Do You Know Me?; September-October, 1995, Martha V. Parravano, review of Great Aunt Martha; May-June, 1997, Nancy Vasilakis, review of Willy's Silly Grandma.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2002, review of The Alchemist's Dog, p. 1226.

Library Journal, July 1, 2006, Tania Barnes, review of Half Life, p. 66.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 28, 2002, Susan Salter Reynolds, review of The Melancholy of Anatomy.

New York Times Book Review, September 20, 1998, Lisa Shea, review of The Old Woman and the Wave, p. 33.

Publishers Weekly, March 15, 1993, review of Do You Know Me?; June 26, 1995, review of Great Aunt Martha; February 24, 1997, review of Willy's Silly Grandma, p. 89; January 19, 1998, review of The Old Woman and the Wave, p. 377; February 4, 2002, Judith Rosen, review of The Melancholy of Anatomy; February 18, 2002, review of The Melancholy of Anatomy, p. 71; August 5, 2002, review of Sophia, the Alchemist's Dog, p. 72; June 6, 2005, review of Magic for Beginners p. 45; May 22, 2006, review of Half Life, p. 31.

School Library Journal, April, 1993, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, review of Do You Know Me,? p. 118; July, 1995, Jody McCoy, review of Great Aunt Martha, p. 64; October, 2002, Catherine Threadgill, review of Sophia, the Alchemist's Dog, p. 166.


Shelley Jackson Home Page,http://www.ineradicablestain.com (December 26, 2006).

About this article

Jackson, Shelley 1963-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article