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Schumacher, Julie 1958-

Schumacher, Julie 1958-

PERSONAL:

Born December 2, 1958, in Wilmington, DE; daughter of Frederick George and Winifred Jean Schumacher; married Lawrence Rubin Jacobs; children: two daughters. Education: Oberlin College, B.A., 1981; Cornell University, M.F.A., 1986.

ADDRESSES:

Home—St. Paul, MN. Agent—Lisa Bankoff, ICM Inc., 825 8th Ave., New York, NY 10019. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Educator and author. P.W. Communications, New York, NY, associate editor, 1983-85; Epoch (magazine), Ithaca, NY, fiction editor, 1985; Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, lecturer in English, 1985-88; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, associate professor, then professor of English and director of creative writing program. Formerly worked as an ice-cream-store clerk and legal secretary.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Notable Book designation, American Library Association, 1995, Minnesota Book Award finalist, and PEN/Hemingway Award finalist, all for The Body Is Water; Minnesota Book Award, 2007, for The Book of One Hundred Truths.

WRITINGS:

The Body Is Water, Soho Press (New York, NY), 1995.

An Explanation for Chaos (stories), Soho Press (New York, NY), 1997.

Grass Angel (young adult), Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2004.

The Chain Letter (young adult), Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2005.

The Book of One Hundred Truths, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Blackbox, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2008.

Contributor to periodicals, including Atlantic Monthly, Ms., and Minnesota Monthly, and to anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories, 1983, and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, 1990 and 1996.

SIDELIGHTS:

Julie Schumacher's first novel, The Body Is Water, opens with pregnant and unmarried teacher Jane Haus returning to the modest home of her father in a New Jersey shore town. Also present is the memory of Jane's dead mother, whose illness and passing has shaped the family as well as each of its members. As Jane's pregnancy progresses, so do her relationships with her eccentric father and sister Bee, and by the time her baby is born, she understands more of who her mother had been. A Publishers Weekly contributor cited Schumacher's "fluid writing and finely shaped characters," adding that "one finishes the story of this eccentric family wishing it were just beginning." In Booklist Donna Seaman called The Body Is Water "pure bliss from its lovely title to its ineffably moving denouement" and praised the author for treating readers to "a magnetically lyrical, bittersweet, and resonant tale."

In her middle-grade novel Grass Angel, called "a gentle, sweet story" by a Kirkus Reviews writer, Schumacher introduces eleven-year-old Frances Cressen. Frances's mother is trying to recover from the early death of her husband, and wants to take Frances and seven-year-old son Everett on a spiritual retreat to Mountain Ash in Oregon, far from their Ohio home. Frances chooses to stay with her eccentric but loving Aunt Blue, who lives near a graveyard, so that she can enjoy the summer at Camp Whitman with her best friend, Agnes. Camp is not the perfect experience Frances had expected, however. When she realizes that her mother and brother may not miss her as much as she misses them, the preteen must deal with feelings of abandonment on various levels. Betsy Hearne reviewed Grass Angel for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, writing that Schumacher "projects a voice authentic to the issues and experience of preteens."

The author's hometown is the setting for The Chain Letter, which finds a twelve-year-old confronted with what may be the repercussions of breaking the chain in a chain letter. Livvie has thrown the chain letter away, convinced by her mother that it is nonsense, but when a number of seemingly unrelated mishaps occur—including a friend's illness, Livvie's broken toe, and some classroom teasing—the girl's superstitious friend convinces Livvie that the chain letter is responsible. While Schumacher creates a story that capitalizes on many preteens' interest in "luck, serendipity, and the power to make important choices," she also introduces readers to a "likeable protagonist," according to School Library Journal critic Laura Scott. The Chain Letter serves up an "entertaining friendship story," concluded a Kirkus Reviews writer of the humorous novel, and in Publishers Weekly a critic praised Schumacher's "slice-of-life novel" for "featuring a cast of well-defined, slightly quirky characters"

Thirteen-year-old Theodora Grumman is the focus of The Book of One Hundred Truths, which takes place one summer at the Jersey shore. Thea spends the summers there, visiting her grandparents, but this year she is sent with a homework assignment from her parents. Responding to the girl's habit of lying, she has been told to fill the pages of a notebook with one hundred true statements. During a busy summer that includes a job babysitting a younger cousin, Thea gradually completes her assignment while loving family members attempt to discover the reason behind the girl's need to tell transparent lies. Noting the novel's strong characters and the "touches of suspense" that figure in its plot, Susan Dove Lempke concluded in Horn Book that The Book of One Hundred Truths "comes together [in] … a believable, satisfying conclusion," and a Publishers Weekly critic deemed The Book of One Hundred Truths a profile of a "sympathetic preteen as she fumbles her way toward adulthood."

In An Explanation for Chaos Schumacher turns to the short-story format, presenting tales dealing with such topics as separation, infertility, a parent's illness, sibling rivalry, child abuse, and aging. The stories encompass the experiences of a summer in the lives of preteen Frieda and Theresa, and although some are light and happy, others are dark and painful. As Kimberly G. Allen, observed in her Library Journal review, Schumacher's stories are "keenly observant, beautifully written, and a pleasure to read."

Discussing her work as a writer, Schumacher once noted: "A lot of my writing is character-driven and focuses on parents and children and adolescent girls.

My first published story, "Reunion," is about two young sisters whose eccentric father refuses to tell them about their mother's illness. My first novel, The Body Is Water, is narrated by a pregnant woman who probably spends too much of her time dreaming about the years when she was growing up. Although I've been writing novels for younger readers, this doesn't feel like much of a shift to me. I have always thought that adolescence is the stage of life during which a person is most thoroughly alive. Increasingly, the line between literature for adults and literature for (and about) children is disappearing.

"The things that motivate me to write have been fairly constant: a desire to explain the world to myself, to sift through the chaos of my own and others' experience until it begins to take on a shape that I can recognize and understand. The trick, for me, is to look at the details of ordinary life in just the right way, so that a narrative rises up from of the colorful jumble. On a bad writing day, I'm combining words to no apparent effect; on a good day, a story will lift up from the fabric of the page like one of those 3-D pictures that your eyes at first resist and then magically see."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, August, 1995, Donna Seaman, review of The Body Is Water, p. 1931; December 1, 1996, Donna Seaman, review of An Explanation for Chaos, p. 642; June 1, 2004, Frances Bradburn, review of Grass Angel, p. 1729; November 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of The Book of One Hundred Truths, p. 55.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 2004, Betsy Hearne, review of Grass Angel, p. 294; December, 2006, Hope Morrison, review of The Book of One Hundred Truths, p. 190.

Chicago Tribune, March 31, 1997, Monica Eng, "Novelist Evokes Dark Shards of Girlhood," p. 2.

Horn Book, January-February, 2007, Susan Dove Lempke, review of The Book of One Hundred Truths, p. 73.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2004, review of Grass Angel, p. 88; January 15, 2005, review of The Chain Letter, p. 125.

Library Journal, January, 1997, Kimberly G. Allen, review of An Explanation for Chaos, p. 152; August, 1995, Lisa Nussbaum, review of The Body Is Water, p. 120.

Publishers Weekly, July 10, 1995, review of The Body Is Water, p. 42; November 11, 1996, review of An Explanation for Chaos, p. 56; February 23, 2004, review of Grass Angel, p. 77; April 18, 2005, review of The Chain Letter, p. 64; October 2, 2006, review of The Book of One Hundred Truths, p. 63.

School Library Journal, April, 2004, Roxanne Burg, review of Grass Angel, p. 161; March, 2005, Laura Scott, review of The Chain Letter, p. 218.

ONLINE

Julie Schumacher Home Page,http://www.julieschumacher.com (July 5, 2008).

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