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.
The essays about her time in women’s collectives and protesting the American government’s warmongering are important artifacts and teach us much about a movement whose ideas and activism are resurging among young people now. The poems are nice but a bit sentimental. The stories are just themselves, which is a hard thing to describe ...There are many fictions of motherhood, and many leftist essays about socialism and the need to end war. There are also many women who deserve to be reclaimed from the obscurity in which so many great American post-war writers languish. There are many generous writers, and many who cared more for living and writing and their families than they cared for fame. But of all these Grace Paley is one of the very best, which A Grace Paley Reader knows.