Tillie Olsen was the first woman Visiting Writer at Amherst College. While she was here, she played an influential role in the emerging women’s movement in the Valley. She also brought to all of the English departments a much expanded and inclusive awareness of British and American literature: literature by women, by forgotten writers-- working-class, African American, Latino and Asian American --and by indigenous peoples from all over the world. She also finished her edition of Rebecca Harding Davis’s "Life in the Iron Mills" with a lengthy and now classic introduction which recovered an important text and created the means to appreciate its value.
"Tell Me A Riddle," published in 1961, quickly gained wide critical acclaim “as a great work of literary art, [which] will be read as long as the American language lasts.”
This new edition gathers, in addition, several short stories and some of Olsen's early journalism in book form for the first time. Her granddaughter, Rebecca Olsen Edwards, herself a poet, provides an introduction equally new and illuminating as the added stories and journalism by her grandmother.
Julie Olsen Edwards, Tillie Olsen’s daughter, will read, along with others, from the new edition and talk about her mother’s life work, as both a writer and a radical activist.
Tillie Olsen was at Amherst College in 1969-70 and was later given an honorary degree by the college. She is now deceased, so it falls to her family and to her readers to keep alive her rich and complex legacy as a writer, a radical activist and a teacher. Her now famous lists of neglected and forgotten books and writers; her novel, "Yonnondio: From the Thirties"; and her essays in "Silences" have influenced writers and teachers worldwide.