Grace Paley

(1922 - 2007)

Born in 1922 to Ukrainian socialists, Grace Paley grew up in the Bronx speaking Russian, Yiddish, and English. In the 1950s and 1960s she became involved in various political causes, including the antiwar, antinuclear, and feminist movements and in 1988 cofounded the Jewish Women’s Committee to End the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. To read her fiction, Margalit Fox wrote in Paley’s New York Times obituary, “is to be awash in the shouts and murmurs of secular Yiddishkeit, with its wild onrushing joy and twilight melancholy. For her, cadence and character went hand in hand: her stories are marked by their minute attention to language, with its tonal rise and fall, hairpin rhetorical reversals and capacity for delicious hyperbolic understatement.” When asked shortly before her death what world she wished for her grandchildren, she said, “A world without militarism and racism and greed—and where women don’t have to fight for their place in the world.”

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