Grace Paley – USA (1922 – 2007)

Grace Paley has passed away on August 22, 2007

Linked with the War Resisters League WRL, and with Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom WILPF.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

Grace Paley (December 11, 1922 – August 22, 2007) was an American short story writer, poet and political activist. Biography: Born as Grace Goodside in the Bronx, Paley’s Jewish parents, Isaac and Manya Ridnyik Goodside, Anglicized the family name from Gutseit on immigrating from Ukraine. The family spoke Russian and Yiddish along with English. The youngest of the three Goodside children (sixteen and fourteen years younger than brother and sister Victor and Jeanne, respectively), Paley was a tomboy as a child … // … Paley continues the stories of Faith and her neighbors in the collection Later the Same Day (1985). All three volumes were gathered in her 1994 Collected Stories, which was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Paley’s other honors include a 1961 Guggenheim Fellowship for Fiction, the Edith Wharton Award (1983), the Rea Award for the Short Story (1993) the Vermont Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts (1993), and the Jewish Cultural Achievement Award for Literary Arts (1994). In 1988 American composer Christian Wolff set eight poems from Leaning Forward (1985) for soprano, bass-baritone, clarinet/bass-clarinet and cello … (full long text, has been updated on 27 December 2008).

She said: “I think it’s like a dark, dark cloud and a period of great anxiety. If we lose, it’s horrible, and if we win, it’s horrible. Those of us in this movement want every soldier saved and home”. (1000peacewomen).


Grace Paley – USA (1922 – 2007)

She worked for the War Resisters League, for the Greenwich Village Peace Center, (named on: war, on PEACEMEAL: A COOK BOOK FROM THE GREENWICH VILLAGE PEACE CENTER), and for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom WILPF.

Watch her on this video: Grace Paley at the Organ Barn ‘02, 02.58 min, Sep 16, 2007.

How aptly named: Grace Paley. For “grace” is perhaps the most accurate, if somewhat poetic, term to employ in speaking of this gifted writer who has concentrated on short, spare fiction through her career of nearly five decades … (full long text).

She said also:… “I’m optimistic because of that one moment when the whole world came out against the war. That has made me optimistic, but apart from that, I have a lot of anxiety about the state of the world. When you think of the things that have happened in Rwanda and Darfur, that are still happening in Darfur, it’s very discouraging. The degree of just plain murder is incredible. What’s happening in Iraq, where they’re all killing each other, is just terrifying. I’m neither optimistic nor pessimistic; I’m just on my knees hoping that things change somehow” … (full interview text).

Find her and her publications on amazon; on alibris; on us.mac millan; on wikipedia /bibliography, and on wikipedia /further reading; on Google Video-search; on inauthor Google-search; on Google Book-search; on Google Scholar-search; on Google Group-search; on Google Blog-search.

Grace Paley, the celebrated writer and social activist whose short stories explored in precise, pungent and tragicomic style the struggles of ordinary women muddling through everyday lives, died on Wednesday at her home in Thetford Hill, Vt. She was 84 and also had an apartment in Manhattan. Ms. Paley had been ill with breast cancer for some time, her literary agent, Elaine Markson, said yesterday … (full long text, Aug. 23, 2007).

… Popular and respected by teachers of writing, Grace Paley’s stories have been used as models in writing workshops. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Ms Fiction, Mother Jones and other magazines. She began teaching in the early 1960’s with courses at Columbia and Syracuse Universities and then became a member of the faculty of Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. She has also taught at the graduate school of City College in New York.
Much of Grace Paley’s life has been spent in political action. A member of the War Resisters League, she opposed American involvement in the Vietnam War and was a member of a peace mission to Hanoi. She attended the World Peace Conference in 1974 and in 1985 visited Nicaragua and El Salvador, after having campaigned against the U.S. government’s policies toward these countries. She was one of “The White House Eleven,” who in December 1978 were arrested in December 1978 for unfurling an anti-nuclear banner on the White House lawn. She was fined and given a suspended sentence … (full text).

And she said: … “Late in 61, Otto Nathan [executor of the estate of pacifist physicist Albert Einstein], who was a friend of the Peace Center, came to us and said, You have to do something. Something terrible is happening in Vietnam, some little country we had never heard of. We set up a teach-in almost immediately, mostly to inform ourselves. But we were a little annoyed, because we wanted our global work to be antinuclear – we thought [Vietnam] was going to get in our way … and: We decided that we needed to get famous people to say they were against the war, to put their names down, and we wrote a statement of resistance saying that we would support anybody who refused to go to the war. We wrote it in such a way that we could get five years [in prison]. Then we had a big meeting at [the Manhattan concert and lecture venue] Town Hall, and we had an easel and our statement of support on the stage, and we asked everybody in the audience to support it. Everybody was there, talking about whether they should really go up there. Then the young fellows who were resisting the draft got up and said why they were not going. They were wonderful. And then we said, Now this audience has to show support. And little by little they did. They pulled themselves together and they went up feeling quite embarrassed and shy, and signed their names on the sheet … and: Yes. People say the Vietnamese won the war. They did not win the war, the U.S. won the war, just by leaving and starving them to death. You don’t say somebody won the war in a medieval town which is under constant siege. Until the U.S. is certain that the Vietnamese lost the war, until they’re absolutely certain that their condition is totally hopeless, we’re not gonna help them. So it’s not over yet? It’s almost over, but it’s not quite over”. (full interview text, March 2000).

(on 1000peacewomen): Grace Paley was born on December 11, 1922 in the Bronx, New York, USA, to Ukrainian Jews, political activists who fled Jew-hating pogroms and political oppression: her father, Isaac Gutseit, had been imprisoned in Siberia and her mother, Manya Ridnyik, had been deported to Germany by the czar of Russia.

When they both were pardoned (by a lucky royal whim), Isaac’s mother sent them, for safety, to the USA. Theirs were the first political minds that influenced Grace, their third child – who was born in the year that Gandhi was sentenced to six years in prison for civil disobedience; the first Irish government free of England was formed under Michael Collins (who, shortly thereafter, was assassinated by the IRA); and President Harding ordered US troops home from the Rhineland.

Grace grew to be more radical than her parents, who, like many immigrants, were grateful for refuge and did not focus sharply on American political problems. Her people, the extended family that Americanized its name to Goodside, ultimately settled into the middle class in the USA, her father having studied both the English language and medicine to become a doctor. So she grew up in material comfort, but her parents’ socialist origins and world view were the foundation of her consciousness of class privilege and her grasp of the political roots of personal life. She became an activist in high school, working on the major issues of the 1930s, especially fascism in Spain. She went to college for a few months a few times, but did not stay.

As a young woman, Grace did paid work in what are still often called pink collar jobs in the USA; some of those office jobs she chose deliberately because they were in the service of political groups created around causes and issues: tenant organizing, civil rights/anti-racism organizing, and other action. She did her political work, then, alongside her mothering and money-getting activities. She married young and already had two small children when she began to write stories and take part in community action in the 1950s. Family money sometimes supported her along with her husband and children, though they had some lean years. Over the years her stories and, more recently, her poems, made her famous, respected and admired in the literary world, nationally and internationally.

She was the first State Author of New York and is now Poet Laureate of the state of Vermont.

A larger part of her time in the past 50 years has been spent in political action, speaking and taking part in demonstrations of all sizes – from weekly silent vigils to giant marches and rallies in the streets. The civil rights movement and the anti-war movement, sources of a mid-20th century growth in activism among neighborhood people in the United States, were surely the source of her education and development as an activist and spokeswoman. Beginning in the 1950s with small local actions for parks and schools (as a member of her local Parent-Teacher Association), then moving into a strong commitment to public action throughout the VietNam war (speaking, writing pamphlets and public statements about resistance and refusal – especially to the military draft, explaining how and why to deliberately break the law – especially in the context of commitment to non-violent action), and building to an analysis of peace work that is compehensively inclusive of environmentalist and feminist thinking, Grace continues to act locally, think globally and inspire/teach people all over the world.

She has often focused on the relationships between peace work and the health of women and children, particularly reproductive health, arguing and teaching against forced sterilization, for abortion rights, for contraception education and access; as well as on action against nuclear power and weapons; against the dangerous bioengineering of food and seeds; and supportive of small farms and rural communities in their struggle against the dire economic outcomes of rampant capitalism, especially in the New England region of the USA. She often discusses the military outcomes and dangers of fundamentalism (in any religion), especially in regard to the ongoing grief of countries in the region of the globe usually called the Middle East. As a politically acute, conscious, secular, pacifist Jew, in the past thirty years Grace has played a crucial role in the USA and elsewhere in the world, promoting thoughtful learning about the struggle of Muslims, Christians and Jews in Palestine and Israel, as they strive for solutions to their deadly problems. She teaches and speaks about non-violence and civil disobedience, arguing against the instigation of what is now often called (by governments and news media) pre-emptive war.

Her politics are fundamental to and inseparable from her art, which was generated and fertilized by movement actions in the 1950s and 1960s in the USA. Grace Paley is now a major figure in the international world of letters, much admired by scholars, critics and general readers, and perhaps especially by other writers, as a skilled crafter of fiction and a lyric poet of deceptive simplicity and strong emotional impact. She taught writing for over 20 years at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY, and has held appointments at other schools as well, including Columbia University, New York University, Stanford University and several others in the USA; she has served, too, as a guest professor, a visiting faculty member, at schools in other countries, and has also been awarded honorary degrees by various colleges and universities, most recently an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Willamette University in the state of Oregon.

Her writing and teaching, and perhaps especially her speaking, engender fierce attachment: Grace has fans, like a film star.

She is unusual in the worlds of literature and politics, partly because she is so passionately active in both spheres (notably, for example, in PEN, the international writers’ organization), and partly because she engenders great warmth and affection from her colleagues in both. It is no exaggeration to say that she is revered as a political activist and thinker in much the same way she is revered as a writer of stories and poems. It is important to know and understand that most of her political work is done in collaboration with others; she makes this immediately clear to audiences, students, and allies.

Collaboration and coalition work are prominent in and central to her philosophy and practice.

In the past 30 years, her writing has grown to include overt articulation of her politics; she is able to make political art that is neither wooden nor dogmatic – accessible and moving to readers and listeners. Her writing, speaking and teaching grow from and are devoted to making connections among issues, connections drawn from her comprehensive understanding and analysis. Grace is able to show and teach about the intricate webs linking such constellations as famine, literacy, and the global dominance of biotechnology in agribusiness.

Now she is over 80, working mostly in New York and Vermont, and she still – often! – travels to other states and other countries, as she has done for 60 years: as a member of the Greenwich Village Peace Center, the War Resisters League and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, as well as the Women’s Pentagon Action and several Jewish peace organizations. During the VietNam war, Grace was educating herself as an activist in her role as a delegate to the World Peace Conference and as a member of peace missions to Hanoi, including the delicate diplomatic work of negotiation for the release of American POWs. She visited with Soviet dissidents and wrote about those meetings, including their intense arguments and agreements with activists from other nations. She travelled to Chile, Nicaragua and El Salvador, learning about liberation and peace movements there, and then teaching about what she’d learned when she returned to the USA.

Whether she is in the streets, in the classroom, in custody, in jail, or confronting wielders of power in the sumptuous centers of government, her work offers an integrated analysis. Her teaching and action offer public education, ways to understand what peace might actually mean in the life of humanity and the life of this planet. Her own understanding has perceptibly grown with her, maturing over the years. Grace Paley has
dedicated much of her time, energy and spirit to peace work for almost her whole life thus far, and has been – by palpable extension – a great influence on and inspiration to many, many thousands of people, crossing and encompassing multiple generations over the decades.

Grace Paley’s many awards include the Senior Fellowship of the Literature Program of the National Endowment for the Arts in the USA, the PEN/Faulkner Award, a National Book Award nomination, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Lannan Award.

Her books, at the time of this nomination, are: The Little Disturbances of Man (1959), Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (1974), Later the Same Day (1985), Leaning Forward (1986), Long Walks and Intimate Talks (created with Vera B. Williams, 1991), New and Collected Poems (1992), Collected Stories (1994), Just As I Thought (1998) and Begin Again: Collected Poems (2000).

Her essays, stories and poems appear frequently in magazines and anthologies; her work has been translated into French, Spanish, Italian, Danish and several other languages. (on 1000peacewomen).


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