Sunday, May 1, 2011

Tomato Girl Author Jayne Pupek (1962 - 2010)

I just learned some sad news. Author Jayne Pupek, born in March of 1962 had passed away in August of 2010 at the young age of 48.  Her debut novel, Tomato Girl was a favorite novel of mine. Have you read it? Here is my review from September of 2008.

Here is a bit of info about Jayne that she had written.

I was born in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in 1962. As the story goes, my mother went into labor during a March blizzard. My father was stationed in North Carolina, where he served as part of the military police. In his absence, my uncle drove my mother to the hospital. They barely made it through the snow drifts, but they did. I'm here, that's proof.

My only sibling, a brother, was born two years later. There would be no more children, as this was about the time my parents learned that I had a form of muscular dystrophy, a condition that would show up in any female children they produced. My childhood included a lot of things that weren't fun: wheelchairs, braces, surgeries, casts, sandbags, and so on. But I had a devoted family, books and animals, and didn't seem to need much else. That's still pretty much true.

With the exception of the Bible and The Farmer's Almanac, books were not valued much in my childhood home. Bedtime stories weren't part of evening rituals. No one wrote poems or spent time reading novels. If anyone in my family kept a diary, I never knew it. Despite their own lack of interest in books, my parents saw that reading was something I could do and enjoy. They gave me all the books I wanted and allowed me to read anything I chose. One of the advantages of growing up in a family of nonreaders was that no one censored what I read. To this day, my mother undoubtedly thinks Anais Nin's Little Birds is a story about sparrows. I'm not about to tell her differently.

While I read and wrote constantly, I didn't consider becoming a writer. In rural communities like the one where I grew up, writers were akin to astronauts, jugglers, and movie stars—sure, they existed, but no one in their right mind talked about becoming one. I went to college at age seventeen and majored in psychology, completing first my BS, and then my MA, both from James Madison University. I used all my electives to take English courses, continued to write, and published my first poem. I was given awards from both the English Department and Psychology Department.

During the next years, I worked with several populations, including battered women and the homeless mentally ill, but I found my niche as a therapist working with inmates. I relocated to Central Virginia to work with incarcerated sexual offenders. After several years working with adults, I transferred to a correctional center for juveniles, where I continued to specialize in the treatment of sexual offenders and their families.

Soon after leaving the Shenandoah Valley, I met and married my husband, a librarian. He is sane, stable, and a calming influence in my life. As I once heard Joyce Carol Oates say on C-Span, no one tells you that you're going to need somebody like that to write, but you do. If you don't have someone like that, go find them.

Ed and I are parents to three amazing children through adoption. Kaity was born in India and came home to us at age five. She was quite the feral child, as she was blind (born without eyes) and autistic; she had never spoken a word and understood no English, nor had she been potty-trained or taught how to use a spoon. Travis was also born in India and came home to us as an infant. He was actually our first child, adopted a year or so before Kaity. And finally, we adopted Ryan, an African American boy born in the United States. He was only five months old when he arrived.

When my children were older, I turned more and more attention to writing. I became more focused, and started submitting work to publishers, receiving a number of rejections, but also more acceptances than I expected. My work has appeared in numerous print and online journals and has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I'm the author of two poetry chapbooks, Primitive (Pudding House Press 2004) and Local Girls (Dead Mule, 2007). My first novel, Tomato Girl, is forthcoming from Algonquin Books in 2008. That same year, Forms of Intercession, my first full length collection of poems, will be published by Mayapple Press.

—Jayne Pupek (August 2007)


  1. What an amazing lady she was. I'm going to put this book on my list. Thanks Diane.

  2. This sounds interesting! So sorry to hear about her passing...

  3. Hello Diane,

    Such sad news about one so young, but what a fantastically fulfilled short life she seems to have lived.

    I have never come across the 'Tomato Girl', but I checked out the link to your review and it is definitely something that I will try to get hold of.

    It sounds like a haunting and emotional read and it is a real shame that such an obvious talent as Jayne's, did not get the chance to flourish.


  4. How sad that the author passed away at such a young age! May she rest in peace.
    I have Tomato Girl on my wishlist - it seems like a great read.

  5. I am so sad to hear this. I loved Tomato was so wonderful. So sad that she didn't live to write another book. Do you know how she died?

  6. Such a young age to pass. I am not familiar with this author's work, but it is sad to hear of anyone so young passing.

  7. Michelle,

    I believe it was from complications due to her disability.

  8. Oh my gosh... this is sad news.

    My book club read this book AND discussed it with her.

    I agree with you, I really liked this one too. If Oprah still had her book club I could see this book being a selection.

  9. I have never heard of this book-however based on what you have given us I am going to read it. How sad that she died so young.

  10. I am so sorry to hear that Jayne has passed away. I am also going to be putting her book on my wish list, and giving it a try. It's so sad when a great author dies before her time, and I can see why you are upset.

  11. Such sad news. Tomato Girl was such a good story. I wonder if Jayne was working on any other novels and if there may be a book to look forward to.

  12. I haven't read Tomato Girl, but I do have it around here somewhere. I didn't realize the author had passed away though. :-(

  13. I don't even have words to say how sorry I am to hear this. I too loved her novel and she was such a wonderful person.

  14. I haven't read this book either. So young...a testiment to live each day to the fullest. Sounds like she accomplished alot in so few years.

  15. I've heard great things about this book and am sorry to hear of her passing.

  16. Such sad news! I loved this book, too, and I shared a few e-mails with Jayne when it first came out. She was a very talented writer and such a nice person. Thanks for posting this.

  17. I had no idea that Jayne Pupek was no longer with us. This is a huge loss to the writing community and indeed to fans of her work. Tomato Girl was my favourite read of 2009 — I'm just so sad to know that she's gone.


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