“The four pieces in TELL ME A RIDDLE are lyrical bulletins of working-class family life, charged with emotional detail and delivered with an attention to the rhythms of consciousness more rigorous and powerful than most of what is called realism.” –A.O. Scott, New York Times
TELL ME A RIDDLE, REQUA I, AND OTHER WORKS
by Tillie Olsen
University of Nebraska Press, 2013
(via the Frances Goldin Literary Agency)
A century after her birth, Tillie Olsen’s writing is as relevant as when it first appeared; indeed, the clarity and passion of her vision and style have, if anything, become even more striking over time. Collected here for the first time are several of Olsen’s nonfiction pieces about the 1930s, early journalism pieces, and short fiction, including the four beautifully crafted, highly celebrated stories originally published as TELL ME A RIDDLE: “I Stand Here Ironing,” “Hey Sailor, What Ship?,” “O Yes,” and “Tell Me a Riddle.” Also included, for the first time since it appeared in the 1971 Best American Short Stories, is “Requa I.”
In these stories, as in all of her work, Olsen set a new standard for the treatment of women and the poor and for the depiction of their lives and circumstances. In her hands, the hard truths about motherhood and marriage, domestic life, labor, and political conviction found expression in language of such poetic intensity and depth that their influence continues to be felt today.
An introduction by Olsen’s granddaughter, the poet Rebekah Edwards, and a foreword by her daughter Laurie Olsen provide a personal and generational context for the author’s work.
Tillie Olsen, 1912-2007, is internationally renowned for her powerful writing about the inner lives of working-class families, women, and minorities. Her books, Tell Me a Riddle, Yonnondio from the Thirties, Silences, and her essays and lectures, have been translated into twelve languages. In April 2021, A.O. Scott, the critic at large and co-chief film critic for The New York Times, wrote about Tillie Olsen for his essay series on influential American authors, saying she “helped change the study of American literature, opening its canon to neglected voices and traditions.”