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Mona Simpson

Mona Simpson

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Mona E. Simpson is an American author. She is a professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, Los Angeles
The University of California, Los Angeles is a public research university located in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, USA. It was founded in 1919 as the "Southern Branch" of the University of California and is the second oldest of the ten campuses...

 (UCLA) and the Sadie Samuelson Levy Professor in Languages and Literature at Bard College
Bard College
Bard College, founded in 1860 as "St. Stephen's College", is a small four-year liberal arts college located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.-Location:...

. She won the Whiting Prize for her first novel, Anywhere but Here (1986). It was a popular success and adapted as a film by the same name, released in 1999. Her novel Off Keck Road (2000) won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. She is also known for being the biological sister of the late Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs
Steven Paul Jobs was an American businessman and inventor widely recognized as a charismatic pioneer of the personal computer revolution. He was co-founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Apple Inc...

, whom she did not meet until she was 25 years old.

Early life and education

Mona Jandali was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin
Green Bay, Wisconsin
Green Bay is a city in and the county seat of Brown County in the U.S. state of Wisconsin, located at the head of Green Bay, a sub-basin of Lake Michigan, at the mouth of the Fox River. It has an elevation of above sea level and is located north of Milwaukee. As of the 2010 United States Census,...

 in 1957 and grew up in Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

, California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

. Her father Abdulfattah "John" Jandali, originally from Syria, taught at the University of Wisconsin. Her mother Joanne Carole Schieble was his student; however, they were the same age because Jandali had "gotten his PhD really young." Later he made a career in the food and beverage industry. Schieble became a speech language pathologist. They divorced in 1962 and Jandali lost touch with Mona. Joanne remarried and Mona was given the last name of her stepfather, Simpson.


Simpson received her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

, and her M.F.A. from Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

. After graduating from Columbia, she worked as an editor for Paris Review
Paris Review
The Paris Review is a literary quarterly founded in 1953 by Harold L. Humes, Peter Matthiessen and George Plimpton. Plimpton edited the Review from its founding until his death in 2003. In its first five years, The Paris Review published works by Jack Kerouac, Philip Larkin, V. S...

. In 1994, she returned to Los Angeles with her husband. In 2001, she started teaching creative writing at UCLA, and also has an appointment at Bard College
Bard College
Bard College, founded in 1860 as "St. Stephen's College", is a small four-year liberal arts college located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.-Location:...

 in New York.

Simpson's novels are a mixture of events from her life and pure fiction. Her first novel, Anywhere But Here (1986), was a critical and popular success, winning the Whiting Prize. It was adapted as the 1999 film, Anywhere But Here, starring Susan Sarandon
Susan Sarandon
Susan Sarandon is an American actress. She has worked in films and television since 1969, and won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the 1995 film Dead Man Walking. She had also been nominated for the award for four films before that and has received other recognition for her...

 and Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman
Natalie Hershlag , better known by her stage name Natalie Portman, is an actress with dual American and Israeli citizenship. Her first role was as an orphan taken in by a hitman in the 1994 French action film Léon, but major success came when she was cast as Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel...

. A Regular Guy (1996) explores the strained relationship of a Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley is a term which refers to the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California in the United States. The region is home to many of the world's largest technology corporations...

 tycoon with a daughter born out of wedlock, whom he did not acknowledge. Off Keck Road (2000), portraying decades in the lives of three women in the Midwest, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. Stacey D'Erasmo
Stacey D'Erasmo
-Biography:D'Erasmo was born in 1961 in New York City. She received a B.A. from Barnard College and an M.A. from New York University in English and American Literature. From 1988 to 1995, she was a senior Editor at the Voice Literary Supplement. She was a Stegner Fellow in Fiction at Stanford...

 states that "Off Keck Road marks the place where origin leaves off and improvisation begins."

Simpson's most recent novel, My Hollywood, was published in 2011. It explores the complex relationships, issues of class, and perspectives of two women, a European-American composer and mother in her 30s, and her immigrant nanny from the Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, who cares for her son and has five of her own in the Philippines whom she is supporting. The novel alternates between the voices of the two women, contrasting their worlds. Liesl Schillinger suggests that the novel is a "compassionate fictional exploration of this complicated global relationship, Simpson assesses the human cost that the child-care bargain exacts on the amah
An amah or ayah is a girl or woman employed by a family to clean and look after children etc. It is a domestic servant role which combines functions of maid and nanny. The term, resembling the pronunciation for "mother", is considered as polite and respectful in the Chinese language when it is...

, on her employer and on the children of both."
Ron Charles further argues that:
What really invigorates this novel, though, is the way it alternates between Claire's chapters and chapters narrated by Lola, her 50-year-old Filipino nanny. I was worried early on that Lola would be a Southeast Asian version of the Magical Negro, who exists merely to help some self-absorbed white person reach enlightenment. But she's entirely her own wonderful, troubled character, and her relationship with Claire remains complex and unresolved.

Finding family

Abdulfattah "John" Jandali and Joanne Carole Schieble had a baby boy in 1955 prior to both their marriage and Mona's birth, but gave him up for adoption. The boy, computer pioneer Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs
Steven Paul Jobs was an American businessman and inventor widely recognized as a charismatic pioneer of the personal computer revolution. He was co-founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Apple Inc...

, was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs. In the 1980s, Jobs found his birth mother, by then Joanne Simpson, who told him that Mona was his biological sister. The siblings met for the first time in 1985 and developed a close friendship. They kept their relationship secret until 1986, when Simpson introduced Jobs as her brother at her book party for her first novel, Anywhere But Here. The two forged a relationship and he regularly visited her in Manhattan
Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York...

. Simpson said, "My brother and I are very close; I admire him enormously." Jobs said, "We're family. She's one of my best friends in the world. I call her and talk to her every couple of days."

Simpson had already been looking for their father and found him, then managing a coffee shop. When she reached Jandali, he said, "'I wish you could have seen me when I was running a bigger restaurant.'" Jandali told Simpson that he had once managed a popular Mediterranean restaurant in Silicon Valley. "'Everybody used to come there,'" the Jobs biographer, Walter Isaacson
Walter Isaacson
Walter Isaacson is a writer and biographer. He is the President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C. He has been the Chairman and CEO of CNN and the Managing Editor of TIME...

, says Jandali told Simpson. "'Even Steve Jobs used to eat there. Yeah, he was a great tipper.'"

In a taped interview aired on 60 Minutes
60 Minutes
60 Minutes is an American television news magazine, which has run on CBS since 1968. The program was created by producer Don Hewitt who set it apart by using a unique style of reporter-centered investigation....

, Jobs said: "When I was looking for my biological mother, obviously, you know, I was looking for my biological father at the same time, and I learned a little bit about him and I didn't like what I learned. I asked her (Mona) to not tell him that we ever met...not tell him anything about me."

In her eulogy
A eulogy is a speech or writing in praise of a person or thing, especially one recently deceased or retired. Eulogies may be given as part of funeral services. However, some denominations either discourage or do not permit eulogies at services to maintain respect for traditions...

 to Jobs (published in the New York Times on October 30, 2011), Simpson stated:
I grew up as an only child, with a single mother. Because we were poor and because I knew my father had emigrated from Syria, I imagined he looked like Omar Sharif
Omar Sharif
Omar Sharif is an Egyptian actor who has starred in Hollywood films including Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago and Funny Girl. He has been nominated for an Academy Award and has won two Golden Globe Awards.-Early life:...

. I hoped he would be rich and kind and would come into our lives (and our not yet furnished apartment) and help us. Later, after I’d met my father, I tried to believe he’d changed his number and left no forwarding address because he was an idealistic revolutionary, plotting a new world for the Arab people. Even as a feminist, my whole life I’d been waiting for a man to love, who could love me. For decades, I’d thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man and he was my brother.

Marriage and family

In 1993, Simpson married the television writer and producer Richard Appel
Richard Appel
Richard "Rich" Appel is an American writer, producer and former attorney. Growing up in Wilmette, Illinois, Appel developed a love of comedy and dreamt of a career as a comedy writer; he attended Harvard University and wrote for the Harvard Lampoon. Following in his mother's footsteps Appel...

 and they had two children together, Gabriel and Grace. Appel, a writer for The Simpsons
The Simpsons
The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical parody of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by its family of the same name, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie...

, used his wife's name for Homer Simpson
Homer Simpson
Homer Jay Simpson is a fictional character in the animated television series The Simpsons and the patriarch of the eponymous family. He is voiced by Dan Castellaneta and first appeared on television, along with the rest of his family, in The Tracey Ullman Show short "Good Night" on April 19, 1987...

's mother
Mona Simpson (The Simpsons)
Mona J. Simpson is a recurring fictional character in the animated television series The Simpsons. She has been voiced by several actresses, including Maggie Roswell, Tress MacNeille and most prominently, Glenn Close. Mona is the estranged wife of Abe Simpson and the mother of Homer Simpson...

, beginning with the episode "Mother Simpson
Mother Simpson
"Mother Simpson" is the eighth episode of The Simpsons seventh season and first aired on November 19, 1995. After faking his own death to get a day off of work, Homer reunites with his mother Mona, who he thought had died 27 years ago. It was directed by David Silverman and was the first episode to...

". They later divorced.

Simpson lives in Santa Monica
Santa Mônica
Santa Mônica is a town and municipality in the state of Paraná in the Southern Region of Brazil.-References:...

 with her two children.


  • 1986, Whiting Prize
  • 1987, Hodder Fellowship (Princeton University)
  • 1988, Guggenheim Fellowship
  • 1995, Lila Wallace Readers Digest Fellowship
  • 2001, Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize
  • 2001, Finalist: PEN/Faulkner award
  • 2008, Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters


  • "A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs." The New York Times
    The New York Times
    The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

    , 30 October 2011.


  • Anywhere But Here (1986) ISBN 0-394-55283-0
  • The Lost Father (1992) ISBN 0-394-58916-5
  • A Regular Guy (1996) ISBN 0-679-45091-2
  • Off Keck Road (2000) ISBN 0-375-41010-4
  • My Hollywood (2010) ISBN 9780307273529

External links