He comes from central Utah and is emerging as a very diverse writer. His published writing is as varied as an award-winning essay on Everett Ruess, a writer who never returned from the wilds of southern Utah, to an essay on life in Ulster, Northern Ireland.
His birthplace is Ephraim, Utah, which claims to be the heart of Utah in deference to Levan in Juab County, which claims to be the center of the state. (Levan is navel spelled backward.)Stephen Jackson grew up in Ephraim, where some people still ask, "Are you going with?" This is despite Winston Churchill's statement that ending a sentence with a preposition "is a fault up with which we cannot put."
That slight fault, along with "he has went" and other local idioms, are considered provincial and unique by those who live in Sanpete among "them turkeys." These idiomatic expressions don't seem to get in the way of people understanding each other despite being grammatically incorrect. They do add interest and color to the language and are becoming less distinctive to Sanpete.
The Sanpete accent may be a little broad in the older generation that can still remember grandparents who spoke Danish. The talk among those in school now, however, doesn't seem so distinctive, since kids nowadays probably learn much of their English on TV.
Ephraim is small, although the "Entering Ephraim" and "Leaving Ephraim" signs are not on the same post. A town isn't really small unless plugging in your electric razor dims the street lights. Ephraim may have been small enough and self contained enough at one time to have a language of its own, but like most small towns, Ephraim is now a cosmopolitan slice of the big world.
Stephen may be another "hometown boy makes good." He will continue to write and publish and try to answer those who rudely ask how someone from rural central Utah (probably redundant) can write so well. The unstated assumption in this question is that rural Utah people don't speak or write correctly.
He has been asked the question so frequently that he passed it along to his dad. "Your language is from the world, not Ephraim," was Dad's answer. "You are a resident of the world more than a resident of Ephraim."
We watch television, read books and newspapers, travel and talk with people from everywhere. People don't live their lives where they were born anymore; they move and take accents and idioms with them to share with others. They pick up new idiomatic expressions at universities, on missions and in the Army and bring those expressions back to where they call home.
Conventional wisdom aside, very few people from Washington County now live in St. "Jarge," and only a minority of people really say Spanish "Fark." Our language is becoming more the language of the English-speaking world. Henry Higgins would have a difficult time putting each of us in our hometown by listening to us speak.
Stephen writes well because he reads and hears the language of the world of which he is a citizen. He reads and experiences in a cosmopolitan culture.
He may have learned his English watching TV, where we don't even seem to notice the accents and local idioms that pass through our heads. He was probably taught by teachers in local schools who were educated in many of the colleges and universities of the state and even out of state. His professors at Snow College and at Brigham Young University were from all over the world, and many had studied at two or three universities.
Can any good writer come out of Ephraim? The question is presumptuous. Good writers can come from anywhere. No one should be surprised that Stephen Jackson from Ephraim, Utah, writes with grace, using the language of the world, and writes with insight about the problems of the world. Stephen Jackson is from the world.