Schumacher, Julie (Alison) 1958–
Schumacher, Julie (Alison) 1958–
PERSONAL: Born December 2, 1958, in Wilmington, DE; daughter of Frederick George and Winifred Jean (Temple) Schumacher; married Lawrence Rubin Jacobs; children: two daughters. Education: Oberlin College, B.A., 1981; Cornell University, M.F.A., 1986.
CAREER: Writer. P. W. Communications, New York, NY, associate editor, 1983–85; Epoch (magazine), Ithaca, NY, fiction editor, 1985; Cornell University, Ithaca, lecturer in English, 1985–88; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, associate professor of English. Also worked as an ice-cream-store clerk and legal secretary.
AWARDS, HONORS: The Body Is Water was named a notable book of the year by the American Library Association and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award.
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.
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 and its individual members. Jane's pregnancy progresses, as 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 noted the "fluid writing and finely shaped characters" and concluded by saying that "one finishes the story of this eccentric family wishing it were just beginning." Booklist reviewer Donna Seaman called The Body Is Water "pure bliss from its lovely title to its ineffably moving denouement" and termed the novel "a magnetically lyrical, bittersweet, and resonant tale."
An Explanation for Chaos collects stories that deal with such topics as separation, infertility, a parent's illness, sibling rivalry, child abuse, and aging. Kimberly G. Allen, who noted in Library Journal that most of Schumacher's stories are told from the perspective of a younger person, said they "are keenly observant, beautifully written, and a pleasure to read." 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. Chicago Tribune contributor Monica Eng quoted Schumacher as commenting that she is often asked how she can remember so much of what it was like to be a young girl in that formative time of life. Her answer? "How can you not remember it?"
Grass Angel, called "a gentle, sweet story" by a Kirkus Reviews writer, is a novel for young readers in which eleven-year-old Frances Cressen refuses to accompany her mother and younger brother, Everett, on a spiritual retreat to Mountain Ash in Oregon, far from their Ohio home. Frances's mother is trying to recover from the early death of her husband, and Everett, at age seven, is a very bright boy devoted to his sister. 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, and she senses that her mother and brother do not miss her as much as she misses them. Frances is forced to deal with feelings of abandonment on various levels, including, at one point, by Agnes. 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."
Schumacher told CA: "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. More recently, 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:
Booklist, August, 1995, Donna Seaman, review of The Body Is Water, p. 1931.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 2004, Betsy Hearne, review of Grass Angel, p. 294.
Chicago Tribune, March 31, 1997, Monica Eng, "Novelist Evokes Dark Shards of Girlhood," p. 2.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2004, review of Grass Angel, p. 88.
Library Journal, January, 1997, Kimberly G. Allen, review of An Explanation for Chaos, p. 152.
Publishers Weekly, July 19, 1995, review of The Body Is Water, p. 42.
Julie Schumacher Home Page, http://www.julieschumacher.com (September 1, 2004).