Rea Award for Short Story
Grace Paley

Grace Paley


New York State Writers Institution's short article on Grace Paley's Litchat with Grace Paley

Salon Magazine's interview with Grace Paley

The New York Times's special feature on Grace Paley

Grace Paley was born Grace Goodside in the Bronx, New York, in 1922. Her parents, Russian-Jewish immigrants, had an important influence on her life as a writer and political activist.

She entered Hunter College in New York City when she was only 15 and later attended New York University, but not stay for a degree. "I really went to school on poetry," she says. "I learned whatever I know about writing and craft from writing poems." In the early 1940's, she studied with W.H. Auden at the New School for Social Research in New York.

Doubleday published Grace Paley's first collection of short stories, The Little Disturbances of Man, in 1959. Based on its glowing reviews, Doubleday tried to persuade her to write a novel. She spent two or three years on this effort, but then abandoned it. In 1968, a different publisher, Viking, reissued The Little Disturbances of Man. As Walter Clemons observed in Newsweek, this was "an event almost without parallel in the forlorn history of short-story collections."

Her next two volumes of short stories were published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux - Enormous Changes at the Last Minute [1974], and Later the Same Day [1985]. She has also published a collection of short fiction and poetry, Long Walks and Intimate Talks [1991] and a book of poetry, New and Collected Poems [1992].

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.

Grace Paley received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Fiction in 1961 and the National Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Short Story writing in 1970. In 1980, she was elected to the National Academy of Arts and Letters.

Born and raised in New York, she has come to be known as the consummate New York writer. Vivian Gornick, in the Village Voice once said, "Grace Paley is to New York what William Faulkner is to Mississippi." In 1989, then New York State Governor Mario Cuomo conferred upon her the honor of becoming the first official New York State writer.

Grace Paley married a motion picture cameraman, Jess Paley, in 1942. They were divorced, and in 1972 she married her second husband, landscape architect and author, Robert Nichols. She has a son and daughter and one grandchild, and currently lives in Thetford, Vermont.

In selecting Grace Paley, the 1993 Rea Award Jurors, Deborah Eisenberg, Stuart Dybek and Jack Miles, said:

    "Grace Paley is a pure short story writer, a natural to the form in the way that rarely gifted athletes are said to be naturals. Her stylistic contribution is unique; a kinetic rhythm of prose divided into fragments that reassemble into a single voice as unmistakable as any in American fiction. It is a voice that, humorous and wise, tough and compassionate, speaks without compromise for the little disturbances of men and women, and endows them with the stature of a moral vision."

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