Jiles, Paulette

Paulette Jiles, poet, novelist, playwright, journalist (b at Salem, Mo 1943). A graduate, in Spanish literature, of the University of Illinois, Paulette Jiles came to Canada in 1969. After a group of her poems appeared in Mindscapes (1971), she published Waterloo Express (1973) before moving to the North for 10 years to work as a journalist. A juvenile novel, The Golden Hawks (1978), was her only book until Celestial Navigation (1984), which won 3 awards, including a GOVERNOR GENERAL'S AWARD for poetry in 1985. Jiles moved back to the United States in the late 1980s but retains her dual Canadian-American citizenship.

Paulette Jiles published 2 novels in 1986: The Late Great Human Road Show, a post-bomb science fiction novel set in a strangely pastoral Toronto, and Sitting in the Club Car Drinking Rum and Karma Cola, a detective-fiction and chase movie spoof. Such fiction gives her wild, comic talent, previously seen in some reminiscent prose pieces in Celestial Navigation, free reign.

Paulette Jiles's poetry is philosophical, ironic and witty, yet capable of profound emotional insights. With The Jesse James Poems (1988), Jiles added her own version of the long documentary poem to that Canadian tradition. As a sign of her growing reputation, she was featured in a special issue of The Malahat Review along with Diana Hartog and Sharon THESEN in 1988. That same year, Gordon Lish, the influential editor of The Quarterly, picked Paulette Jiles as an up-and-coming American author, and enlisted her as a writer for his journal.

Blackwater (1988) contains a selection of Paulette Jiles's previously published poetry and the novella A Manual of Etiquette for Ladies Crossing Canada by Train. In Cousins (1992), Jiles presents a creative nonfiction investigation of her extended family in Missouri. Her other nonfiction work includes North Spirit: Travels Among the Cree and Ojibway Nations and Their Star Maps (1995), a memoir of Jiles's experiences as a journalist and broadcaster in northern Ontario. Also in 1995, she published Flying Lessons: Selected Poems.

Paulette Jiles has received critical praise for her American historical fiction. Her best-selling novel Enemy Women (2002) is set in a St. Louis prison for the criminally insane, during the American Civil War. Enemy Women won Canada's Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and America's Willa Cather Literary Award for Historical Fiction. The novel Stormy Weather (2007) takes place during the Depression, on an east Texas dust farm, where a newly widowed mother struggles to provide for her 3 young daughters.