Gun Jacobson was an author. She was very important to the development of modern young adult novels.
Gun Jacobson was born in Sundsvall in 1930. Her father was Anders Boström, a butcher. Her mother was Elisabet Wermelin who was a saleswoman. Gun Jacobson gained her school-leaving certificate in 1949. She then trained as a school teacher and graduated in 1951. She was a clever student and, according to her own account, she was “an exemplary student – interested in all subjects except practical ones because they did not count anyway – and thus became an exemplary school teacher, who knew a little bit about most things and felt compelled to be interested in everything.” She taught from 1951–1968. In 1952 she married Knut Jacobson and they went on to have three children together.
Gun Jacobson worked with and actively engaged in various societies. From 1966–1970, during her spare time, she ran the children’s theatre in Lycksele and was subsequently active in the IOGT (International Organisation of Good Templars) movement as a member of its board from 1970–1974. She travelled, acted, ran children’s and youth groups, and wrote. It was her childhood dream to become an author. She took a type-writing course when she was 13 years old, about which she wrote: “Both my mother and I felt it was a good thing to be able to use a type-writer, as an author”.
Gun Jacobson made her debut as an author in 1966. Her stories usually portray young people and social wrongs as seen in her first novel, entitled Fel spår, published by Albert Bonniers. By the time this book was published she had already written a poetry-collection, a fairy-tale, and two novels all of which had been rejected. Fel spår is a socio-realistic depiction of young people aged 13-14 who are at a loose end. They don’t like school and instead spend their time as petty thieves and driving illegally. The surprise twist in the story involves the young characters capturing a fur thief, leading one of their group – Mia – to decide that they deserve no commendation given their own prior thieving. Similarly, in her 1973 novel Hela långa dagen, Gun Jacobson portrays the sadness of capital city suburbs which usually consist of a solitary square, a single subway station, and gangs of youths. The author is critical of adults who do not take responsibility for their young, whilst the youths are described with warmth – including the main protagonist, the difficult Pingo. In her 1974 book Ostraffad Gun Jacobson is similarly defensive of the young character of Jocke, who ends up in reform school. Although there is a difference between being punished or going unpunished, it is the fine line between the two which forms an important moral in the story.
Gun Jacobson’s great breakthrough as a youth novelist came through her 1971 novel Peters baby which is the first in a trilogy about Peter, a tough lad who becomes a father a the tender age of 16. Peter is an unusual character for a novel at that time as he takes full responsibility for his daughter Lena, whilst the mother abandons her child and moves to Stockholm. Peter becomes a single parent. He brings his daughter with him to school, stops drinking beer, and matures as the novels progress. He faces struggles with the authorities who cannot fathom that a young boy can cope with the situation, until he finally proves them wrong: he gets official affirmation that he is a capable, loving parent. The novel was ground-breaking with regard to its theme and during the 1970s the character of Peter became representative of the new male ideal which included taking responsibility and embracing a softer side to his masculinity. The sequels, Tjejer, Peter!, from 1975, and Peter och Lena, from 1976, also depict everyday dealings with toddlers, girlfriends, grandparents, and being a young person. In the last book Peter is conscripted, leading to the matter of who will care for his daughter. Although readers and the publishers alike had encouraged Gun Jacobson to write the last book, the reviewers were lukewarm in their views.
Gun Jacobson’s young people’s novels are critical of society. They were published during the 1960s and 1970s at a time when socio-realistic youth novels became universally popular. Gun Jacobson took an interest in gender roles and the situations young people found themselves in. In 1977 and 1978 she wrote educational material entitled Vi i sexan which was used in schools to educate students on alcohol and drugs. In several of her books, including Hela långa dagen, the themes include that of alcoholic parents. Although male protagonists appear in many of her books the female secondary characters are always fundamental to the story. The 1972 novel Tack – håll käften tells the story of Ioanna, a Greek woman, and the contrast of her isolated existence in Sweden with the greater freedom of the male characters is notable. Gun Jacobson’s 1979 novel, En tjej vid ratten, depicts Carina the truck driver. Similar to the Peter trilogy, here Gun Jacobson is exceedingly aware of gender issues. She realistically describes Carina’s job and how difficult it can be to be a woman in a male-dominated world. This book also reveals that Gun Jacobson had sought out female truck drivers as the dedication reads: “Till lasbilschaufförerna Carola och Ulla utan vilkas hjälp denna bok inte hade blivit skriven” (to the truck drivers Carola and Ulla without whose help this book would not have been written).
Gun Jacobson changed track in 1978, producing the fantasy novel Salamander, but following poor reviews she returned to the realism genre for her last set of books: Nu eller aldrig, from 1981, TV-leken, from 1986, Ensamma på ön, from 1988, Ragulkakrigarna from 1989, and I natt hos dig, from 1995. These were all published by Bonnier Carlsen. Her novel Ragulkakrigarna is a realistic historical young adult novel covering oppression in Estonia during the Second World War.
Gun Jacobson received many awards, including the Sveriges författarfonds arbetsstipendium (Swedish authors’ fund work stipend) in 1970 and 1981; the Litteraturfrämjandets (promotion of literature) stipend in 1972; Sveriges författarfonds femåriga arbesstipendium (Swedish authors’ five-year work stipend) 1972–1976; Lycksele municipality cultural stipend in 1975, Sveriges författarfonds stipendium in 1976, Bonniers barnboksstipendium (children’s book stipend) in 1979; and from 1979 onwards she received guaranteed author’s funding.
Gun Jacobson died in 1996.