Tillie Olsen

I’ve been thinking about Tillie Olsen this week. So many of her stories move me, make me ache with truth and motherhood and disparity. When she died in 2007 Peanut was just over a year old and while I admired Olsen’s work, I didn’t really feel her as I do now.

Today I flipped through Tell Me A Riddle looking for a quote I vaguely remember, that I absolutely don’t deserve to use as a chapter epigraph, but that I wanted to revisit.

And I remembered I Stand Here Ironing.

Do you know it?

Read it. Tell me if it sears your very being.

14 thoughts on “Tillie Olsen

  1. Holy crap, yes it does. I was thinking of Tilda Swinton, the actress, when I started reading this and wondered, Where is the going with this? Oh, somewhere so wonderful. I wish I could write like that. Delicious and searing.

  2. It sears my very being! It sears my very being! It does! It does!

    I’m reading Silences right now. She is a genius and a prophet and has a very special place in my mama writer pantheon. (I’m actually about to start a series profiling mama writers…maybe I’ll start with Tillie?)

  3. “That time of motherhood is almost behind me when the ear is not one’s own but must always be racked and listening for the child cry, the child call.”

  4. Tremendous.
    “Only help her to believe – help make it so there is cause for her to believe that she is more than this dress on the ironing board, helpless before the iron.”

  5. Last time I read Tillie Olsen, I was at university doing my BA in English Lit – very childless and very clever about analysing writing craft. I should go find her again and read her as a human mom, eh?

    • Absolutely.
      And I don’t judge our early scholarly efforts, but looking at my own stuff I’m keenly aware that all I had to offer was who I was then. Young and optimistic and inexperienced and clever and industrious. Really really young.
      Give Olsen another whirl.

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