Cover image for Tillie Olsen reads "I stand here ironing" (short story), and excerpts from Yonnondio and "Oh yes"
Tillie Olsen reads "I stand here ironing" (short story), and excerpts from Yonnondio and "Oh yes"
Olsen, Tillie.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Columbia, Mo. (P.O. Box 842, Columbia, Mo. 65205) : American Audio Prose Library, [1981]

Physical Description:
1 audiocassette (77 min.) : 1 7/8 ips., monophonic
Added Corporate Author:
Format :
Sound Cassette

Sound Recording

On Order



Olsen, as reader & interviewee, compels the listener like an ancient mariner until her tale is spun. The antiphonal passage from "Yonnondio" is equaled only by passages from "Dante's Inferno"

Author Notes

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Tillie Olsen received only a high school education. But because of her success as a writer, she has served as a visiting lecturer and writer-in-residence at a number of colleges, including Amherst College, Stanford University, and MIT. She has received numerous awards for her work, including an O. Henry Award for best American short story (1961) and a Guggenheim fellowship (1976-77).

The widely anthologized "I Stand Here Ironing" (1961), in the circumstances of its publication and its voice and subject, embodies the concerns of Olsen's literary career. In this monologue of a woman reviewing her relationship to her 19-year-old daughter, Olsen suggests the themes of the blighted potential and wasted talent of working-class women that have preoccupied her throughout her career. As she irons, the woman mournfully meditates on how she may have prevented her daughter's full "flowering" - a flowering that she herself has never had. Most intensely recalled is how she had to leave her infant daughter to go to work after her husband abandoned them. A mother herself by age 19, Olsen did not publish her first work until she was in her forties (though she began to write in her teens) when the pressures of supporting herself and her four children lessened and she felt she had written something worthy of publication. At times considered unrelenting in the despair that she attributes to her characters, Olsen's style is marked by a rhythmic, hypnotic lyricism and an evocative use of language.

Olsen later published an introductory essay to the reprint of Rebecca Harding Davis's nineteenth-century novel, Life in the Iron Mills. In Silences (1978), a collection of essays, she addresses directly the various cultural, political, and economic forces that silence women writers and writers from working-class or minority backgrounds.

(Bowker Author Biography)