Grace Paley

Grace Paley’s (1922-2007) work has been translated into 92 languages.  Born in the Bronx to Russian Jewish socialist immigrant parents in 1922,   Paley has been called   “the Chekhov of New York City,”  “the bard of Jewish New York,” and  “the consummate New York writer.”  “Grace Paley is to New York what William Faulkner is to Mississippi,” Vivian Gornick wrote in the Village Voice.  She was named the first state author of New York. From her acclaimed debut The Little Disturbances of Man (1958) onwards, Grace Paley’s three story collections were critical sensations; and in 1994 they were compiled in The Collected Stories, a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.  She was among the earliest American writers to explore the daily lives of women. She was the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts. In 1980 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In spring of 1987, Paley received a senior fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in recognition of her lifetime contribution to literature.  She was a past vice president of the Pen American Center. She was also named poet laureate of Vermont. Paley is known for her masterful ear for dialect and her gift for poetic concision. William Novak–and others–describe her as a “writer’s writer”.   She has described herself as “somewhat combative pacifist and cooperative anarchist.” She refused to see her political life as separate from her writing life.



"A writer like Paley," writes George Saunders, “comes along and brightens language up again, takes it aside and gives it a pep talk, sends it back renewed, so it can do its job, which is to wake us up.” Best known for her inimitable short stories, Grace Paley was also an enormously talented essayist and poet, as well as a fierce activist. She was a tireless member of the antiwar movement, the civil rights movement, the tenants’ rights movement, the anti-nuclear-power movement, and the Women’s Pentagon Action, among other causes, and proved herself to be a passionate citizen of each of her communities―New York City and rural Vermont. A Grace Paley Reader compiles a selection of Paley’s writing across genres, showcasing her breadth of work as well as her extraordinary insight and brilliant economy of words.

“Grace Paley makes me weep and laugh-and admire. She is that rare kind of writer, a natural, with a voice like no one else's: funny, sad, lean, modest, energetic, acute.”―Susan Sontag

“Grace Paley is a wonderful writer and troublemaker. We are fortunate to have her in our country.”―Donald Barthelme

“I can't think of another writer who captures the itch of the city, love between parents and children, or the cutting edge of combat, as well.”―Lis Harris, The New York Times Book Review

“Technically, Grace Paley's work makes the novel as a form seem virtually redundant. Each one of her stories has more abundant inner life than most other people's novels . . . Her prose presents a series of miracles of poetic compression.”―Angela Carter, London Review of Books

“A solid and vital fictional world, cross-referenced and dense with life.” ―Walter Clemons, Newsweek

"A welcome new collection of [Paley's] short stories, nonfiction, and poems . . . You can take the Reader to a rally and feel galvanized by Paley's conviction, or you can take it to bed late at night and find pleasure and comfort in humane prose."Alexandra Schwartz, New Yorker

"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. . . Of the voices of mid-century American radicalism, few could ever make perseverance seem so vital.”―Nicholas Dames, The Atlantic

"[A Grace Paley Reader is] the kind of retrospective that, in an era in which plot has given way to character, reveals the vital scope of [Paley's] influence.”―Megan O'Grady, Vogue (Must-Read Books of Spring 2017)

"Grace Paley may be the most underrated of New York twentieth-century writers . . . Paley became a knower of women, a conscious feminist, and a writer all at once . . . 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."―Joseph Livingstone, New Republic

“The nice thing about A Grace Paley Reader, aside from the reminder that now would be a good time to read Grace Paley (and it so happens that now is areally good time to reread, or read for the first time, her work, which is full of energetic struggle against tyrannies small and large), 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 . . . And the longer I’ve had it with me, the more I find myself identifying with a title that had at first seemed awfully studious. A Grace Paley reader: I’m glad to be one.”―Karen Olsson, Bookforum

"Paley was the real deal . . . [this] new collection . . . brings together work from the course of her career and provides a much-needed reminder of its importance . . . Her work remains indelible."―Paul Wilner, The Millions

"Grace Paley is the most intelligent, generous, incorruptible writer I ever knew. Her daughter says, “I learned from her that precision requires a warm eye, not a cold one,” and so did we all. Keen wit and real modesty seldom occur in such happy alliance. Who she was is what she writes. She never shows off, never bullies. She asks us what do you think about this? and is interested in our answer. She takes nothing for granted and everything as worth rethinking. Her writing on social issues remains timely because it was never superficial; she held understanding more useful than judgment. Very few writers can match the offhand voice, with its unmistakable oral cadence, in which her poignant, funny short stories are told. Her poem “Responsibility” set the standard she herself met, and her poetry, always at the service of moral issues, is still giving readers lines to live by. This excellent anthology of her work is a gift of her generous spirit to the rest of this century. I hope it finds the love, warmth, and honor it offers us all."― Ursula K. Le Guin

“Grace Paley’s work has a way of surprising us in times of reckoning. There’s no other voice of calm, deliberate certainty as hers. She possesses the capacity of observation alive with a resolve raised out of the Bronx. This ‘once in a lifetime’ realist has endured, but, most of all, we need Grace now. A Grace Paley Reader is the best we can do in these times. Whether writing from behind the bars of a Greenwich Village jail where she spent six days for protesting; or deciphering the complexity of love, race and class, motherhood, fidelity, and capitalism; or reporting from North Vietnam, Paley reminds us of a larger responsibility through a personal vernacular that resonates out to the world.”―Yusef Komunyakaa

“Has there ever been an author like Paley? A poet and essayist but primarily a short story writer, she functioned, before her death in 2007 at age 84, as a kind of conscience to the culture, an activist who saw art-making as political from the start . . . her short stories are among the finest produced by an American . . . 'What does a writer leave behind?’ George Saunders asks in his introduction. ‘Scale models of a way of seeing and thinking.’ Think of the pieces here as a series of scale models that together encapsulate Paley's generous sensibility.”Kirkus Review (starred)

Rights: FSG, North America



This rich and multifaceted collection is Grace Paley's vivid record of her life. As close to an autobiography as anything we are likely to have from this quintessentially American writer, Just As I Thought gives us a chance to see Paley not only as a writer and "troublemaker" but also as a daughter, sister, mother, and grandmother. Through her descriptions of her childhood in the Bronx and her experiences as an antiwar activist to her lectures on writing and her recollections of other writers, these pieces are always alive with Paley's inimitable voice, humor, and wisdom.

“A feisty, passionate gathering of writings.”Elle

“In Paley, life, literature and politics converge--nonviolently, of course--in a cunning patchwork quilt of radiance and scruple, witness and example, nurture and nag, subversive humor and astonishing art: a Magical Socialism and a Groucho Marxism.” ―John Leonard, The Nation

“What distinguishes Just As I Thought from standard political fare is what sets her stories apart as well: Paley's genius for capturing the way people talk to each other across seemingly unbridgeable divides.”―Alexis Jetter, Vanity Fair

"Well worth reading, this volume collects essays, prefaces, and talks by peace and feminist activist Paley, born to a socialist Jewish family of Russian emigres in the Bronx in 1922. Paley writes with disarming frankness and humor, especially when her subjects are women, children—which, as she points out, include men—and herself. The reader sees her as child, married woman, housewife, mother, employee (phone answerer, typist, babysitter, secretary, teacher)?but through it all, first and foremost, Paley is a writer. "—Library Journal

Rights: FSG, North America; Editions Rivages, France; Virago, UK; Einaudi Editore, Italy



This reissue of Grace Paley's classic collection—a finalist for the National Book Award—demonstrates her rich use of language as well as her extraordinary insight into and compassion for her characters, moving from the hilarious to the tragic and back again. Whether writing about the love (and conflict) between parents and children or between husband and wife, or about the struggles of aging single mothers or disheartened political organizers to make sense of the world, she brings the same unerring ear for the rhythm of life as it is actually lived.

The Collected Stories is a 1994 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction.

"The external facts of Ms. Paley's narratives are unremarkable. A woman runs into her former husband in the park, and they slip off to make love; a circle of women who met when they all had small children visit the one who is dying, and they talk about their grown children; an old couple undertake to raise their crazy daughter's child; a group of Americans sympathetic to mainland China are scolded by their Chinese tour guide for excessive curiosity and photography. These ingredients are the unremarkable clay and water of Grace Paley's time and place. What she has given them is the breath of art."—Robert Pinsky, The New York Times Book Review

"Paley is a member of that select breed of writers who become masters of the short story and resist the pressure to produce a novel. This volume gathers together more than 30 years' worth of stellar stories from Paley's best-known collections . . . This rich compilation presents us with the full spectrum of Paley's voices as well as her observations and interpretations of urban family life and a society that thrives on oppression."—Donna Seaman, Booklist

"Paley hasn't written much, but the stories she has written are gems, and all of them (from The Little Disturbances of ManEnormous Changes at the Last Minute; and Later the Same Day) are collected here."Kirkus Reviews

Rights: FSG, North America; Tiderne Skifter Forlag, Denmark; Insel Verlag, Germany; Aventura Forlag, Norway; Schoffling, Germany; Catalonia, Spain




Rights: FSG, North America; Minimum Fax, Italy; Schoffling, Germany


Rights: FSG, North America; Surkamp Verlag, Germany; Anagrama, Spain; Bungeishunju, Japan; Rivage, France; Editora Paz E Terra, Brazil; Uitgeverij Contract, Holland; Bokforlaget Trevi, Sweden; Virago, UK; Einaudi Editore, Italy


Rights: FSG North America; Editions Recherches, France; Surkamp Verlag, Germany; Andre Duetsch, UK; Bungeishunju, Japan; Anagrama, Spain; Pax Forlag, Norway; Einaudi Editore, Italy; LJ Veen Klassiek, The Netherlands


Rights: FSG, North America; Bungeishunju, Japan; Einaudi Editore, Italy; Rivages, France; Anagrama, Spain; Am Oved, Israel; Virago, UK; Yolimwon, Korea