A Grace Paley Reader: Stories, Essays, and Poetry


“I sit down with a cup of tea. I have to get some words on a page. The problem this morning is that I cannot pull my eyes away from the news: chemical weapons, toddlers in oxygen masks, fathers holding lifeless babies, politicians playing war games. I have a hard time focusing on mornings like this one. I think of a friend, a bright voice for good, who had to log off of social media for a time, hashtag signoffs: #resist, #soldieron. I know that feeling. I am like a runner at the starting blocks, waiting for someone to pull the trigger. I think I could change the world if someone would just pull the trigger … What I wouldn’t give for a little Scotch in my tea on a morning like this. I pick up Grace instead. The new A Grace Paley Reader, edited by Kevin Bowen and Nora Paley and introduced by George Saunders, makes accessible the writings of a woman who lived a life of tenacious and peaceful resistance. Divided into three sections, Paley’s stories, essays, and poems convey distilled wisdom gained from a lifetime of fighting for what she believed. Many readers are familiar with the work of Grace Paley — her writings have been a staple among the socially conscious for decades — and yet I find that her voice is an especially important one now. The issues of her time are the issues of our time. Paley was born into a legacy of social activism. … Paley leads her characters through changes that challenge readers to question their own degree of emotional engagement. In her story ‘Faith in a Tree,’ she introduces a single mother, Faith, who is holding a business meeting with her colleagues, a meeting conducted from the strong upper branch of a sycamore tree: ‘I can only see Kitty, a co-worker in the mother trade — a topnotch craftsman. She is below, leaning on my tree.’ They are passing the day, these women, in dialogue about life, child rearing, sex, and politics. The conversation is clipped, interrupted, and unadorned. … Faith, safely perched in her sycamore tree, removed from what is below, watches as a parade enters the park. Young parents with toddlers in wagons are carrying antiwar posters: ‘The grownups carried three posters […] the third poster carried no words, only a napalmed Vietnamese baby, seared, scarred, with twisted hands.’ Faith stays in her tree. …”
Los Angeles Review of Books: Just Grace
BOOKFORUM: Pièces de Résistance
An Interview with Grace Paley: ‘Every Action Was Essential’
DISSENT: This Is What We Must Do – Five poems by the late American writer and activist Grace Paley.
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