Paley, Grace, 1922

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Paley, Grace, 1922

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Grace Paley was born in the Bronx in 1922 to a family of socialist Russian Jewish immigrants.

Grace Paley, the first recipient of the Edith Wharton Citation of Merit in 1989. Also in 1989 she was honored by New York Governor Mario Cuomo, who declared her the first official New York State Writer. She received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1961, a grant from the National Endowment Board of P.E.N. In Spring 1987, Ms. Paley was awarded a Senior Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts, in recognition of her lifetime contribution to literature. Also included among her awards and honors are: the 1994 Jewish Cultural Achievement Award for Literary Arts; the 1993 Vermont Award for Excellence in the Arts; the 1992 REA Award for Short Stories.

She began her writing career as a poet, but is most known for her mastery of the short story. Asked once why she has never written a novel, Grace said,"Art is too long and life is too short."

She draws from her experiences growing up in New York City to capture the everyday situations of immigrant Jews, poor blacks and others who shared her existence in the neighborhoods, playgrounds and subways of her city. Her stories champion realistic characters who, against all the odds, take a chance to make "enormous changes at the last minute."

Grace has been a feminist and peace activist; involved in anti-war, feminist and anti-nuclear movements. Ms. Paley has been a member of the War Resister's League, resist, and Women's Pentagon Action, and was one of the founders of the Greenwich Village Peace Center in 1961; she regards herself as a "somewhat combative pacifist and cooperative anarchist."

From the start of her writing career, the power of dialogue has been an important element of her work: one of her recurring story lines has been the portrayal of the relationships that women develop by talking to each other. Paley has also been active in fighting for various social concerns, from protests against the Vietnam War to demonstrations against the production of nuclear weapons. Her short stories are collected in such volumes as The Little Disturbances of Man (1959), Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (1974), and Later the Same Day (1985). She has three collections of poetry, including Leaning Forward, also published in 1985, as well as a collection of poems and prose pieces, Long Walks and Intimate Talks. Ms. Paley's stories have appeared in The New Yorker, and The Atlantic Monthly, among other publications.

Grace studied at Hunter College and New York University, Merchants & Bankers Business and Secretarial School. Ms. Paley has taught at Columbia University, Syracuse University, City College of New York, Dartmouth and Sarah Lawrence College, where she has taught creative writing and literature.

Her childhood was filled with a rich heritage of storytelling by her father, mother and aunts. Grace has two children and lives between New York City and Thetford, Vermont.


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