Jiles, Paulette 1943–
Jiles, Paulette 1943–
Born April 4, 1943, in Salem, MO; immigrated to Canada; married. Education: University of Missouri, B.A., 1969.
Writer, poet. Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC-Radio), Toronto, Ontario, Canada, freelance reporter, 1968-69; journalism consultant to native Canadian communication groups in Arctic region, 1973-83; David Thompson University, Nelson, British Columbia, Canada, instructor, 1983-84; Phillips Academy, Andover, MA, writer-in-residence, 1987-88; appeared in documentary film Rose's House, 1976.
President's Gold Medal, 1973; Pat Lowther Memorial award, 1984; Gerald Lampert award, 1974; Governor General's Award, 1984, for Celestial Navigation; A.C.T.R.A. award, 1989, for Money and Blankets; "Read This!" choice citation from Good Morning America, 2002, for Enemy Women.
Rose's House (screenplay), National Film Board of Canada (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1976.
Sitting in the Club Car Drinking Rum and Karma-Kola: A Manual of Etiquette for Ladies Crossing Canada by Train (novella), Polestar Press (Winlaw, British Columbia, Canada), 1986.
The Late Great Human Road Show (novel), Talonbooks (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 1986.
Cousins (novel), Knopf (New York, NY), 1991.
North Spirit: Travels among the Cree and Ojibway Nations and Their Star Maps, Hungry Mind (St. Paul, MN), 1995, published as North Spirit: Sojourns among the Cree and Ojibway, Doubleday Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995.
Enemy Women (novel), William Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.
Stormy Weather (novel), William Morrow (New York, NY), 2007.
Waterloo Express, Anansi (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1973.
Celestial Navigation, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1984.
The Jesse James Poems, Polestar Press (Winlaw, British Columbia, Canada), 1988.
Blackwater, Knopf (New York, NY), 1988.
Song to the Rising Sun: A Collection, Polestar Press (Winlaw, British Columbia, Canada), 1989.
Flying Lessons: Selected Poems, Oxford University Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995.
Also author of radio plays My Mother's Quilt, 1987, and Money and Blankets, 1988. Work represented in anthologies, including Canada First, edited by P. Anson, Anansi, 1970, and Mindscapes; contributor of short stories to Saturday Night.
Novelist and poet Paulette Jiles became nationally recognized in 2002 with the publication of her historical novel Enemy Women. Although many reviewers cited Enemy Women as her first novel, Jiles is in fact an accomplished writer with many other books to her credit, including another novel. Well before Enemy Women hit the stands, Jiles had become well known in her adopted country of Canada. Among her works are the novel Cousins and the poetry collections Blackwater and Celestial Navigation, the latter the winner of Canada's prestigious Governor General's award in 1985.
Jiles's first volume of poetry, Waterloo Express, met with an enthusiastic reception. Dennis Lee commented in Saturday Night that "the author is often presented in folk outline: she laments a string of busted love affairs, hits the road again and again to forget, and can talk as sardonic and lowdown as any blues momma. Yet the TNT and agony she drags around come crackling out in images of manic brilliance, controlled by a frequently superb ear." Linda Rogers of Canadian Literature was similarly impressed with Jiles's use of language. Her "images have a life of their own," Rogers explained, and "in visual terms, the poems are like the paintings of Marc Chagall. Gorgeous disconnected figures float by…. All the paraphernalia of life's circus is assembled in a giant mobile moving in the wind."
It was over a decade before Jiles's second book, Celestial Navigation, was published. Containing twenty-one poems from Waterloo Express, the volume also includes many newer poems, comprising a "collection that derives its dynamic energy from Jiles's skill with language," wrote Books in Canada reviewer Judith Fitzgerald. "Whether she focuses on interpersonal relationships or interplanetary movements, all things flourish where she turns her eyes." Celestial Navigation, which also includes several long, narrative prose poems, uses storytelling to create what Canadian Poetry essayist Susan J. Schenk called "a distinctively female, profoundly personal response to experience…. [T]he voice talking … is for Jiles a means of both displacing personal experience, locating it in the experiences of others, and revealing intensely personal thoughts and emotions."
Jiles's 1988 verse collection, Blackwater, was her first volume to be published in the United States, where she was born and raised. The collection incorporates her Jesse James Poems, a montage of poetry and contemporary newspaper articles, photographs, and other artifacts related to the outlaw gang. Blackwater also contains several short prose works, as well as Jiles's 1986 comic novella, A Manual of Etiquette for Ladies Crossing Canada by Train, which was published in Canada under the title Sitting in the Club Car Drinking Rum and Karma-Kola: A Manual of Etiquette for Ladies Crossing Canada by Train. A parody of the 1940s detective novels of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, A Manual of Etiquette for Ladies Crossing Canada by Train, follows its heroine as she avoids the payment of 50,000 dollars in overdue bills by fleeing across the country.
Song to the Rising Sun: A Collection contains both poetry and several of Jiles's radio scripts. The collection focuses on the poet's recollections of her youth, growing up in Missouri's Ozark Mountain region around a number of colorful—and talkative—friends, neighbors, and relatives. "The poet's voice sounds everywhere with a strong incantatory beat and a marked use of repetition," according to Contemporary Women Poets contributor Patience Wheatley. Jiles's 1995 collection, Flying Lessons: Selected Poems, incorporates some poems from Song to the Rising Sun along with new material. Jiles has also published North Spirit: Sojourns among the Cree and Ojibway, a 1995 nonfiction work that recounts her experiences while living among Canada's northern tribes in the 1970s and 1980s.
It was the novel Enemy Women that became Jiles's first bestseller. The Civil War-era story is based upon Jiles's own family history and on research she did on women prisoners in Missouri during the Civil War. Set in the Ozark region of Missouri, the novel recounts the wartime experiences of Adair Randolph Colley, an eighteen-year-old woman thrown into desperate circumstances with little more than her wits to guide her. After Adair's father is beaten and taken away by the Union militia, she follows the troops in hopes of finding his whereabouts. Instead she is arrested as a Confederate spy and consigned to a women's penitentiary in St. Louis. Amidst the horrifying conditions of the jail, Adair falls in love with the Union officer in charge of the facility, and he helps her to escape even as he leaves the post himself for active duty in the front lines. Christine Wald-Hopkins in the Denver Post called Enemy Women "a patchwork of varied and disparate pieces—a love story, a grownup girl-and-horse story, a little personal family history, straight historical exposition and a narrative pieced together by period documents."
Enemy Women became a bestseller after it was chosen as the second "Read This!" selection by the television show Good Morning America. The book's success was also propelled by reviews and by the popularity of Civil War titles in general. Like Cold Mountain before it, Enemy Women reveals another side of the famous conflict, that of civilian suffering and the unjust incarceration of innocent people who were merely under suspicion of collaboration with the enemy. According to Linda Brazill in Capital Times: "It's the intimate knowledge of how things worked, smelled and tasted more than a hundred years ago that lend [Jiles's] tale its strength and immediacy. Jiles covers what should be familiar territory by now—the Civil War—but she makes it seem like not only a new story but one that is more related to contemporary history and politics than I would have imagined possible." Brazill further noted that Jiles is "a talented writer whose book is filled with memorable images and passages that beg to be read a second time." A reviewer for the Tampa Tribune noted that Jiles's "poetic experience rings through in her prose. The narrative is rich with exquisitely sensual descriptions of the sights, smells, and sounds of a country at war."
According to Michelle Vellucci in People, Enemy Women succeeds "because of the vitality of its heroine. Adair is a spitfire with a brash sense of humor and a will of granite. Hers is a love story with grit." In the Houston Chronicle Eileen McClelland noted that the "storyteller's skill provides a breezy read through … heavy matters that serve as an interesting backdrop to a romantic journey…. It's easy to cheer Adair on in her wild journey home."
Jiles's next novel, Stormy Weather, is a tale of survival set during the Great Depression. Jack Stoddard, a roustabout who liked his gambling and drinking, tried to support his family by working in the Texas oil fields, but he is exposed to a gas leak that sickens him and he dies in a jail cell. His wife Elizabeth and their three daughters move to the abandoned Tolliver farmhouse that belongs to Elizabeth's family, where they struggle to pay the back taxes and survive on cornmeal and beans. Mayme finds a job and pays down the taxes, while Jeanine sews, fixes up the farmhouse, and reclaims the orchard and the land. The youngest daughter, Bea, who has suffered an accident, is unable to walk, and she studies from her chair and writes in her tablet, aware that the state could take her away because the family is unable to pay for an operation that could help her walk. The women's rays of hope are Smoky Joe, Jack's half-starved racehorse, which Jeanine sells to Ross Everett—whom she has known since childhood and who is now widowed—to cover their debts with the agreement that they will get a cut from any winnings, and a wildcat oil well, where Elizabeth invests her savings. As World War II looms on the horizon, Mayme finds romance with a soldier, while Jeanine also finds a newspaperman named Milton interesting.
Booklist reviewer Joanne Wilkinson wrote of Jiles's story of the Stoddard woman: "Jiles conveys their sense of self and of home in language as spare and stark as the Texas landscape." Donna Volkenannt reviewed the story for Bookreporter.com, describing it as "a poignant tale about courage, hope and sacrifice in the bleakest circumstances. The historic setting, realistic dialogue and well-drawn characters make it a joy to read. But the elegant description and the graceful writing of author Paulette Jiles make it a story that is hard to forget."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 13, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1980.
Contemporary Women Poets, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1997.
Book World, June 10, 2007, "Of Love and Dust," p. 6.
Booklist, April 15, 2007, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Stormy Weather, p. 31.
Books in Canada, October, 1984, Judith Fitzgerald, review of Celestial Navigation, pp. 27-28; January-February, 1987, p. 15; April, 1987, review of The Late Great Human Road Show, p. 7; October, 1988, review of The Jesse James Poems, p. 37; summer, 1992, review of Cousins; May, 1995, review of North Spirit: Travels among the Cree and Ojibway Nations and Their Star Maps, p. 30; June 1, 2002, "Consorting with the Enemy: Interview with Paulette Jiles," p. 21.
Business Wire, May 31, 2007, "Paulette Jiles's Stormy Weather the Fourth Selection in the Barnes & Noble Recommends Program."
Canadian Literature, summer, 1974, Linda Rogers, review of Waterloo Express.
Canadian Poetry, spring/summer, 1987, Susan Schenk, review of Celestial Navigation, pp. 67-79.
Capital Times (Madison, WI), May 17, 2002, Linda Brazill, review of Enemy Women, p. A13.
Christian Science Monitor, March 7, 2002, Ray Burson, review of Enemy Women, p. 20.
Denver Post, March 24, 2002, Christine Wald-Hopkins, review of Enemy Women, p. EE-03.
Houston Chronicle, April 14, 2002, Eileen McClelland, review of Enemy Women, p. 18.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2007, review of Stormy Weather.
Library Journal, February 1, 1992, Ellen Finnie Duranceau, review of Cousins, p. 102; November 1, 1996, Elizabeth Salt, review of North Spirit: Travels among the Cree and Ojibway Nations and Their Star Maps, p. 98; February 15, 2002, Ann Fleury, review of Enemy Women, p. 178; April 1, 2007, Keddy Ann Outlaw, review of Stormy Weather, p. 81.
National Post, June 23, 2007, Nancy Wigston, review of Stormy Weather, p. 11.
New York Times Book Review, February 24, 2002, John Vernon, review of Enemy Women, p. 9.
People, February 11, 2002, Michelle Vellucci, review of Enemy Women, p. 41.
Publishers Weekly, December 20, 1991, review of Cousins, p. 70; January 7, 2002, review of Enemy Women, p. 46; March 12, 2007, review of Stormy Weather, p. 39.
Quarry, fall, 1992, review of Cousins.
Quill and Quire, December, 1986, review of Sitting in the Club Car Drinking Rum and Karma-Kola, p. 38; December, 1986, review of The Late Great Human Road Show, p. 38; September, 1988, review of Jesse James Poems, p. 75; September, 1988, review of The Jesse James Poems, p. 75; February, 1992, review of Cousins, p. 25; May, 1995, review of North Spirit, p. 36; November, 1995, review of Flying Lesson, p. 38.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 3, 2002, Colleen Kelly Warren, review of Enemy Women, p. G8.
Saturday Night, December, 1973, Dennis Lee, review of Waterloo Express.
Southwest Review, spring, 1993, Elizabeth Mills, "A Manual of Etiquette: An Interview with Paulette Jiles," p. 245.
Tampa Tribune, March 3, 2002, review of Enemy Women, p. 4.
Texas Monthly, May, 2007, Mike Shea, review of Stormy Weather, p. 60.
USA Today, July 26, 2007, "This Tale Weathers the Depression," p. 7.
Women's Review of Books, March, 1997, Jan Zita Grover, review of North Spirit: Sojourns among the Cree and Ojibway, p. 5.
Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (November 30, 2007), Donna Volkenannt, review of Stormy Weather.