Writer, poet and activist Grace Paley's birthday is December 11 (born in 1922, she died in 2007). In honor of Grace Paley Between the Covers presents an interview with local author Judith Arcana, who is Grace Paley's biographer, as well as parts of memorial show produced by KBOO's Circle A Radio Collective on December 5th, 2007. We’ll also hear archival recordings of Grace Paley reading her work and talking about her life.
Judith Arcana recently wrote this about Grace Paley:
"Grace Paley was a great writer, loved and respected all over the world. She was also an activist, working on anti-militarism, the conditions of women’s lives, and urgent environmental issues.
Grace understood that sometimes cops or soldiers in the street are angry or scared enough to be cruel and violent. Yet she said, I don’t think the thing for me has been “civil disobedience” so much as the importance of not asking permission. And, Non-violence does not mean personal safety. Pacifism is not passive-ism."
Grace Paley’s work was writing and political action; she used both to seek truth and justice. Born in 1922, she died in 2007.
We can celebrate her birthday, December 11, by thinking about and acting on some of the things she wrote and said:
- I have always [believed] that if there are prisons, they ought to be in the neighborhood … not … where families have to take cars, buses, ferries, trains, and the population that considers itself innocent forgets, denies, chooses to never know that there is a whole huge country of the bad and the unlucky and the self-hurters, a country with a population greater than that of many nations in our world.
- To get birth control [when I was young] … you had to be older and married. You couldn’t get anything in drugstores, unless you were terribly sick and had to buy a diaphragm because your womb was falling out. … I was eighteen, and it was 1940 when I tiptoed in to get a diaphragm. I said I was married. … My generation – and only in our later years – and the one right after mine have been the only ones to really enjoy any sexual freedom. The kids have to know that it’s not just the right to abortion which is essential; it’s their right to a sexual life.
- Lots of literature comes from ... not knowing. It comes from what you’re curious about. It comes from what obsesses you. It comes from what you want to know.... You write fromwhat you know, but you write into what you don’t know.
- You are going to leave the world, right? So you really hate to leave it in worse shape than you found it. I have a certain degree of hopefulness, but I don’t think it means anything unless we really continue to look, to look at the earth, the way poets do.