J. California Cooper is one of my older sister’s favorite authors. With this in mind I pursued my read of a second Cooper novel. Now, I thought Wake of the Wind was a good read, but still not one of my favorite books. Some People, Some Other Place, on the other hand, is hard to put down. Last night, I didn’t turn on my favorite homie, the television, but instead devoured this novel as it dealt with family (i.e. mother/daughter relationships), fertility/reproduction, rape (yes, another novel about rape), a young woman coming of age, social class, American history, and two female characters developing a friendship and trust between one another. All of these topics are touched upon in only the first 100 pages. Needless to say, I am intrigued by what may happen to Eula Too, Earle, and Madame Elizabeth in the upcoming chapters.
Until my eyes race across those final pages, I offer the proceding information about the author. Enjoy.
“I was telling stories before I could write. I like to tell stories, and I like to talk to things. If you’ve read fairy tales, you know that everything can talk, from trees to chairs to tables to brooms. So I grew up thinking that, and I turned it into stories.” – J. California Cooper
You’re probably dying to know what the J stands for, right? Well, J. California Cooper isn’t saying. She hasn’t used her first name since the early eighties, when complete strangers in the Bay Area theater scene took to chatting up the playwright as if they knew her personally. So she kept her last name, adopted her home state for her middle one, and dropped every letter in her birth name but the first initial.
The insightful author, who has sold more than 700,000 copies of her much-loved works, including Wake of the Wind (Anchor) and the 1989 American Book Award-winning Homemade Love (St. Martin’s Press), says she has just one more book in her. It’s hard to believe that the energetic seventysomething (she loves swimming, playing the piano, and tap dancing) will ever put down her pen and writing pad because it’s an integral part of her creative ritual and spirit. She writes in bed, in longhand. “Anything mechanical will run the story and feeling away,” she says. And she writes only under certain conditions. “Writing hand to pen to paper never happens in the summer,” says Cooper.
These days, this Portland, Oregon, mother of one grown daughter has been feeling the impulse to lay down her pen and pick up brushes and sketchbooks instead. She doubts this final book will come to her Pacific Northwest house, where she’s been living for the past year. “It’s too big and cold,” she says. She’s strongly considering a move to smaller digs. “All I want is a little house with a garden, a yard, a cat and a chicken or two.”
Despite this quest for a simpler life, Cooper has had a dazzling career. And through it all, her message has remained pretty much unchanged. “I’ve always loved to write about what’s going on in the world,” she says. “Because I love God, I know that even though life is hard and people suffer very much, if you have laughter and faith, you can also have optimism.”