A century after her birth, Tillie Olsen’s writing is as relevant as when it first appeared; indeed, the clarity and passion of her vision and style have, if anything, become even more striking over time. Collected here for the first time are several of Olsen’s nonfiction pieces about the 1930s, early journalism pieces, and short fiction, including the four beautifully crafted, highly celebrated stories originally published as Tell Me a Riddle: “I Stand Here Ironing,” “Hey Sailor, What Ship?,” “O Yes,” and “Tell Me a Riddle.” Also included, for the first time since it appeared in the 1971 Best American Short Stories, is “Requa I.”
In these stories, as in all of her work, Olsen set a new standard for the treatment of women and the poor and for the depiction of their lives and circumstances. In her hands, the hard truths about motherhood and marriage, domestic life, labor, and political conviction found expression in language of such poetic intensity and depth that their influence continues to be felt today.
An introduction by Olsen’s granddaughter, the poet Rebekah Edwards, and a foreword by her daughter Laurie Olsen provide a personal and generational context for the author’s work.
Tillie Olsen (1912–2007) was an activist, feminist, award-winning author, and teacher who won nine honorary degrees and whose short stories “Tell Me a Riddle” (winner of the O. Henry Award) and “I Stand Here Ironing” have been anthologized extensively. She is the author of the novel Yonondio: From the Thirties, available in a Bison Books edition, the nonfiction book Silences, and numerous published essays and is the editor of Mother to Daughter, Daughter to Mother: Mothers on Mothering.
Foreword by Laurie Olsen
Introduction by Rebekah Edwards
Tell Me a Riddle
I Stand Here Ironing
Hey Sailor, What Ship?
Tell Me a Riddle
A Vision of Fear and Hope
I Want You Women up North to Know
Biographical Sketch by Laurie Olsen