Nebraska Center for Writers

Chimney Rock What the Critics Say
About Tillie Olsen


Mothers and Daughters:
That Special Quality:
An Exploration in Photographs
Copyright © 1995
by Tillie Olsen and Estelle Jussim

Mothers and Daughters is a moving tribute to that most extraordinary emotional bond, that between a mother and daughter. Whether it is cherished or despised, the bond remains. Mothers and Daughters is a collection of photographs chosen from the work of 90 photographers. Robert Adams, Harry Callahan, Jill Freedman, Sally Mann, Bruce Davidson, Niki Berg, Barbara Crane, Abigail Heyman, and Milton Rogovin are among the many photographers who contributed to this beautiful volume. The photographers are joined by many extrodinary leading writers and poets, including Alice Walker, Eudora Welty, Nikki Giovanni, Marge Piercy and Adrienne Rich, in offering us a harmony of insights and observations. A very special gift for any mother or daughter. — Word

Copyright © 1989
by Tillie Olsen
Bantam, Doubleday, Dell

This book is about silences. It is concerned with the relationship of circumstances — including class, color, sex; the times, climate into which one is born — to the creation of literature. In the United States, why are there so many more male authors than female authors listed in literary course offerings, reviews, and anthologies? Why, especially, when as far back as 1971, one out of every four or five books published were written by women? Is this more proof, "in this so much more favorable century," that women are innately incapable of artistic literary achievement? With poetic language and painstaking thoroughness, Tillie Olsen articulates the obstacles, difficulties, frustrations, and imperatives faced when non-privileged people — women especially — are driven to write: How do working people get sustained periods of time not devoted to wage labor or corrupted by economic pressures? Where do women writers find sufficient space and encouragement to keep writing? Written over a period of fifteen years in time squeezed between wage work and mothering, Silences continues to serve as a model of inviting and accessible scholarship: "A passion and purpose inform its pages: love for my incomparable medium, literature; hatred for all that, societally rooted, unnecessarily lessens and denies it; slows, impairs, silences writers. It is written to re-dedicate and encourage. — Jesse Larsen, 500 Great Books by Women

Tell Me a Riddle
Copyright © 1989
by Tillie Olsen
Delacorte Press

This collection of stories...has become an American classic. Since the title novella won the First Prize O Henry Award in 1961, the stories have become staples in literature classes. They have been anthologized over a hundred times, made into three films, translated into thirteen languages, and — most important — once read, they live forever in the hearts of their readers. — from the jacket

When she wrote Tell Me a Riddle, Tillie Olsen, like William Blake, covered paper with words "for the angels to read." — John Leonard

Tillie Olsen's stories have an extraordinary purity and dignity. Every time I read Tell Me a Riddle it breaks my heart. — Alice Munro

These stories have the lyric intensity of an Emily Dickinson poem and the scope of a Balzac novel. — from the judges' citation for the Rea Award for the Short Story

They are alive, her people ... she creates them with a feeling and understanding so deep as to be literally painful. — New York Times Book Review

Everything she has written has become almost immediately a classic. — Robert Coles

Her fictional world portrays the people who fall outside the Plains stereotypes. — Linda Ray Pratt

There are stories in this collection which are perfectly realized works of art. — RM Elman, Commonweal

What Tillie Olsen has to say ... is of primary importance to those who want to understand how Art is generated or subverted and those trying to create it themselves. — Margaret Atwood

Exists in the realm in which craftsmanship is transformed into mystery, and criticism comes close to irrelevance. — Saturday Review

Explores the deep pain and real promise of fundamental American experience. As a work of great literary art, it will be read as long as the American language lasts. — Julian Moynihan

Tillie Olsen writes about those people who, because of their class, sex, or race, have been denied the opportunity to express and develop themselves. In a strongly emotional style, she tells of their dreams and failures, of what she calls "the unnatural thwarting of what struggles to come into being but cannot." — Contemporary Authors

From the Thirties
Copyright © 1994
by Tillie Olsen
Delacorte Press

Set during the Depression, Yonnondio: From The Thirties is the timeless and hauntingly timely story of the Holbrook family, struggling for a more tolerable existence. Written by the author in the 1930s and rediscovered by her in the 1970s, Yonnondio will always be an unfinished work that makes us long for more of that young author's brilliance. This reissue presents newly discovered fragments and scenes that satisfy some of that longing and give a more complete picture of the fate of the mother, Anna, one of literature's most believable and enduring woman. — from the jacket

I know of no work that bespeaks the consciousness and roots of the 1930s as brilliantly as Yonnondio.

Yonnondio, whose language is often achingly beautiful, is an elegy that acts on the reader indirectly by its emotional suggestiveness, rather than by its direct succession of events. — The New Republic

Tillie Olsen is one of the greatest prose stylists now writing. ... a magnificent novel. ... the best novel to come out of the so-called proletarian movement of the '30s. — Jack Salzman, Book World

Almost unbearable in its harsh poetry and bitter fidelity to lives that are now forgotten, or never known, except by hearts that once comprehending suffering never forget it. — Alice Walker

On every page, a sense of teeming, tumbling life. ... Mrs Olsen is a most appealing writer, a strange new charmer in the wilderness that is fiction today. — The New Yorker

Yonnondio clearly must take its place as the best novel to come out of the so-called proletarian movement of the '30s. ... Mrs Olsen's richness of style, her depth of characterization, make for a work which must not, cannot be restricted by a particular time or place. — Washington Post

The heart of meaning in this book, the key to its rhythm, is the phoenix rebirth of the spirit. — Village Voice
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