susanstinson: (Default)
Yesterday, I took the bus to Amherst to go to the reading in honor of Tillie Olsen on her ninety-fifth birthday, which also served as a memorial for her. It was raining, a little cold. I was looking at her book Silences while I was waiting for the bus and while I was riding. It moved me very much, and made me think, again, how lucky I was to find this work when I was just starting to write fiction, and how important it's been to me. Reading there and listening at the memorial made me decided to post excerpts from her work here this week.

I was a little late, and the small group were already sitting in a semicircle at the bookstore, reading aloud. Most seemed to know Tillie, from her time at Amherst College, and also there was at least one person there who was part of her family. There were gorgeous bits of her fiction, especially from "Oh Yes" from Tell Me A Riddle. And people told small stories -- how excited she was to see a car with an IWW bumper sticker, and started belting out, "Solidarity Forever," in which the driver, getting out of the car, joined her.

I read from Silences )
susanstinson: (Default)
As suggested by Tillie's family at their website about her:

Sunday, January 14th at 3:00—5:00 P.M.  (Memorial Gathering)
Tillie Olsen
, writer, feminist, scholar, & lifelong activist for social justice, died on New Year’s Day in Oakland, California.   This Sunday, which would have been her 95th birthday, there will be a gathering to celebrate her life.   All who were touched by her work are warmly welcome to come &, if they wish, read aloud a short passage of their choice from Tillie’s writings.

All events at the bookstore are free & open to the public.

Amherst Books
8 Main Street
Amherst, MA 01002

For more information, please visit us at Amherst Books.
susanstinson: (Default)
Tillie Olsen has died at 94.

Her book Silences was crucial to me as I was forming my identity as a writer. One phrase from that book that I never forgot: "the knife of the perfectionist attitude." It was one of the things she listed as silencing writers -- part of her passionate examination of silences caused in writers because of oppression based on sex, race and class -- and I recognized it, and the blade, the cut of it, so clearly in myself.

Tell Me a Riddle, a collection of short stories, was another book that helped me see that I could write about things that the culture as a whole found too trivial for serious examination in fiction. I remember reading them on the bus. Her work has given me big gifts, for sure.


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May 2009



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