Jukes did her undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Before becoming an author, Jukes was a licensed California attorney and a teacher. Jukes became inactive as an attorney in 1984.  Her first book, ''No One is Going to Nashville", was published in 1983. She lives with her husband, the sculptor and painter Robert H. Hudson, and their daughters in Sonoma County, California. She is the daughter of Thomas Hughes Jukes, a famous molecular biologist and nutritionist, who pioneered the use of methotrexate as a new cancer therapy and was one of the first to formulate the neutral theory of molecular evolution.
She received the Newbery Honor distinction in 1985 for her book Like Jake and Me.