University of Nebraska Press



Tillie Olsen

Date of this Version

Spring 2013


© 2013 by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska,675737.aspx


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 its 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.