I was saddened to learn of the death of Tillie Olsen–activist, feminist, writer. I do love her stories, but her book Yonnondio: From The Thirties is one of the most powerful books I have ever read (I need to reread it because it has been many years–can it be 20?–since the first time).

Her words, her characters, their struggles, moved me. And what she did is to point her lens on poverty, on class, on the politics of the domestic life. In short, she changed my idea of what is “okay” for a person to write about.

In reading the linked obit, the part which struck me as saddest was this:

But Olsen’s theme – and her fear – was silence, the dream only dreamed. Olsen knew this firsthand. After beginning a novel in the 1930s about a migrant family, her writing career was delayed 20 years for sheer lack of time. She never stopped regretting all the stories never told.

“Well, I’m going to be one of those unhappy people who dies with the sense of what never got written, or never got finished,” she said.

I hope she did not die unhappy. I hope she knew how much her words moved generations of people–women especially–and how they will move generations to come.

Thank you, Tillie Olsen.

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