The nice thing about A Grace Paley Reader, aside from the reminder that now would be a good time to read Grace Paley, is that by bringing together a selection of her stories, nonfiction pieces, and poems, it illuminates the connections among them, along with the intertwinings of work and life ... It is remarkable that a voice so acrobatic and sly and playful still rings so true ... If today's newspapers seem not always up to the task of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, this book did the trick—that is to say, I found it both comforting and afflicting. And the longer I've had it with me, the more I find myself identifying with a title that at first had seemed awfully studious. A Grace Paley reader: I'm glad to be one.
If the Reader was intended as a memorial, published a decade after her death, it now seems more pressing—a necessary antidote to the current demoralization of the American left and the disorientation of what remains of the country’s center ... There are no easy conversions here, and while Paley has a stern understanding of her political enemies, she refuses to soften into acceptance. Instead she dwells on protracted acts: long, difficult conversations; long, painful vigils; many drenching nights and blazing days without obvious results. They are what the stories give us, fragmented into brief, vivid glimpses. Of the voices of mid-century American radicalism, few could ever make perseverance seem so vital.
Many readers are familiar with the work of Grace Paley — her writings have been a staple among the socially conscious for decades — and yet I find that her voice is an especially important one now. The issues of her time are the issues of our time … Paley’s writing shines light, and this light illuminates a blueprint for persistent resistance. Her stories portray flawed, loud, and resilient characters getting on with living. They are not careful, with themselves or with their loved ones, but they are tenacious … Again and again, Paley is available, imposing, interrupting, reaching toward the hustle of humanity, and reaching without need or judgment. She has something to offer in her writing that she knows is of value: a kind of truth.