Although she has published several short stories, Mona Elizabeth Simpson is best known for her critically acclaimed novels. Her books are lengthy, lyrical explorations of the search for identity in America at the end of the twentieth century. Simpson’s narrators are lonely people, most often women, who as children were continuously betrayed by adults, physically and emotionally abused, and left to assemble an identity out of the fragments of their lives. Wounded and deprived of the rituals and processes of a daily family life, they survive by taking sometimes courageous, often desperate control of events: they steal, develop eating disorders, and put themselves at risk in dangerous situations and unfulfilling relationships.
Simpson, born to Syrian immigrants from Homs, grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, a landscape that figures prominently in her fiction. She received her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1979 and an M.F.A. from Columbia University in 1983. Her fiction has been supported by several literary grants and awards, including the Whiting Writer’s Award, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, and by foundations such as the Corporation of Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. Simpson was an editor at The Paris Review during the 1980’s. Beginning in 1988 she was a Bard Center Fellow and a teacher at Bard College. She has also spent time in New York and Los Angeles.
Simpson’s first two novels, Anywhere but Here and The Lost Father, share the same narrator, although they have different names. Anywhere but Here chronicles the journey west of Ann August and her mother, Adele August Diamond. Although the voices of Ann’s grandmother Lillian, her aunt Carol, and her mother are interspersed between Ann’s chapters, the daughter’s narrative makes up the bulk of the novel, and she is the central consciousness. In The Lost Father Mayan Atassi, a medical student at Columbia University, embarks on a search for her father who left home when she was a child. The shared histories of Ann August and Mayan Atassi, and their similar voices, let the reader know that she is the same person, each novel detailing a different part of her life and her family history.
Adele August Diamond is a selfish, narcissistic person who convinces her daughter Ann that she has the potential to be a child star. She uproots Ann from home...
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