Mona Simpson

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For the fictional character from The Simpsons, see Mona Simpson (The Simpsons).
Mona Simpson
Mona Simpson
at the 2014 National Book Festival
Born Mona Jandali
(1957-06-14) June 14, 1957 (age 57)
Green Bay, Wisconsin, United States
Occupation Novelist,
English professor
Nationality American
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley
Columbia University
Genre American literature
Notable works Anywhere But Here (1986)
The Lost Father (1992)
A Regular Guy (1996)
Spouse Richard Appel (divorced)
Children Gabriel
Relatives Steve Jobs (biological brother) (deceased)

Mona E. Simpson (born Mona Jandali,[1] June 14, 1957) is an American author. She is a professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the Sadie Samuelson Levy Professor in Languages and Literature at Bard College.[2][3]

She won the Whiting Award 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. She wrote a sequel, The Lost Father (1992). Critical recognition has included the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize and making the shortlist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for her novel Off Keck Road (2000).

She is the biological younger sister of the late Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, who was born before their parents married and given up for adoption. Mona was born after the marriage. The siblings did not meet until Simpson was 25 and Jobs 27 years old.[4]

Early life[edit]

Mona Jandali was born in 1957 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.[5] Her father Abdulfattah "John" Jandali, was originally from Homs, Syria. He was a cousin of composer and pianist Malek Jandali. Abdulfattah taught at the University of Wisconsin, and later made a career in the food and beverage industry.[1] Her parents met when her mother, Joanne Carole Schieble, was his student; the two were the same age as Jandali had "gotten his PhD really young".[1] Schieble became a speech language pathologist.[6] The couple divorced in 1962, when Mona was five,[5] and Joanne lost touch with Jandali.[4] After Joanne remarried when her daughter was young, Mona was given the last name of her stepfather, Simpson.[1]


Mona Simpson received her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and her M.F.A. from Columbia University. After graduating from Columbia, she worked as an editor for Paris Review in New York. She met her husband and married there. In 1994, they returned to Los Angeles area.[2] In 2001, Simpson started teaching creative writing at UCLA; she also has an appointment at Bard College in New York state.[2]

Simpson's novels are fictional and drawn from life experiences.[1][7][8] Her first novel, Anywhere But Here (1986), was a critical and popular success, winning the Whiting Award. In describing her intentions for the novel, Simpson stated:

I wanted to write about American mythologies, American yearnings that might be responses, delayed or exaggerated but in some way typical, to the political and social truths of our part of the world in our century. But I wrote very personally about one family. I think it takes a long time before a crisis—like AIDS—enters the culture to a point where responses exist in a character, where personal gestures are both individual and resonant in a larger way.[9]

It was adapted as the 1999 film Anywhere But Here, starring Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman.[10] Simpson published a sequel, The Lost Father (1992).

A Regular Guy (1996) explores the strained relationship of a Silicon Valley tycoon with a daughter born out of wedlock, whom he did not acknowledge.[7][8] 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 said, "'Off Keck Road' marks the place where origin leaves off and improvisation begins".[11]

Simpson's most recent novel, My Hollywood, was published in 2011. It explores the complex relationships, issues of class, and perspectives of two women, Claire, a European-American composer in her 30s and mother of one son, and Lola, her immigrant nanny from the Philippines. The nanny supports her own five children in the Philippines. 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, on her employer and on the children of both."[12]

Ron Charles says:

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.[13]

Finding family[edit]

Simpson at the Miami Book Fair International 2014

Abdulfattah "John" Jandali and Joanne Carole Schieble had a baby boy in 1955 prior to their marriage and gave him up for adoption. The boy was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs and given the name of Steve Jobs. He developed as a computer programmer and visionary entrepreneur.[8] As noted above, John and Joanne married and in 1957 had a daughter Mona together. They divorced when she was young.

With changes about legal rights of adoptees to information about their birth parents, in the 1980s Jobs traced and found his birth mother Joanne, who had remarried and used the surname Simpson. She told him about Mona Simpson, his full biological sister. The siblings met for the first time in 1985[4] and developed a close friendship. They kept their relationship secret until 1986, when Simpson introduced Jobs as her brother at the book party for her first novel, Anywhere But Here. Jobs regularly visited her when she lived in Manhattan. 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".[8]

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".[14] 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, says Jandali told Simpson. "Even Steve Jobs used to eat there. Yeah, he was a great tipper".[14]

In her eulogy 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. 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.[4]

Marriage and family[edit]

In 1993, Simpson married the television writer and producer Richard Appel.[15] They had two children together, Gabriel and Grace.[16] Appel, a writer for The Simpsons, used his wife's name for Homer Simpson's mother, beginning with the episode "Mother Simpson".[17] They later divorced. Simpson lives in Santa Monica with their two children.[18]






  1. ^ a b c d e Meer, Ameena (1987). "Mona Simpson". BOMB. Retrieved 2010-02-26. 
  2. ^ a b c Wendy Soderburg, "UCLA author’s latest novel: A young mother, her nanny and hard choices", UCLA Today, Aug 05, 2010
  3. ^ "Mona Simpson". Bard College. Retrieved 2011-10-10. 
  4. ^ a b c d A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs
  5. ^ a b Behrendt, Andy. "Apple Computer mogul's roots tied to Green Bay". Green Bay Press Gazette. 
  6. ^ Apple’s Visionary Redefined Digital Age
  7. ^ a b Lisa Brennan-Jobs, "Driving Jane", originally published in The Harvard Advocate, Spring 1999], hosted at Lisa Brennan-Jobs' official website
  8. ^ a b c d Lohr, Steve (January 12, 1997). "Creating Jobs". The New York Times. Retrieved October 27, 2007. 
  9. ^ Meer, Ameena. "Mona Simpson Interview", BOMB Magazine, Summer 1987. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
  10. ^ Knopf Biography
  11. ^ Stacey D'Erasmo, "Life Is What Happens to Other People", The New York Times, 12 November 2000, accessed 24 October 2011
  12. ^ Liesl Schillinger, Review: "For Love and Money", The New York Times, 8 August 2010, accessed 24 October 2011
  13. ^ "Book World: Mona Simpson's "My Hollywood," reviewed by Ron Charles", The Washington Post, 18 August 2010, accessed 24 October 2011
  14. ^ a b "Steve Jobs and biological father unknowingly met, biographer says", CBS News
  15. ^ Burciu, Andrea (2010-03-11). "Author Mona Simpson reads from newest novel on campus". The Hofstra Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-03-12. 
  16. ^ Charles R. Loebbaka (2009-05-05). "Noted English Scholar, Author Alfred Appel Dies at Age 75". Northwestern University. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  17. ^ Appel, Richard (2005). The Simpsons season 6 DVD commentary for the episode "Mother Simpson" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f g Mona Simpson:About
  19. ^ GRANTA: Mona Simpson

External links[edit]