Grace Paley's "The Loudest Voice"

Resource Kit by
Ruth Wang Birnbaum, Amy Montoni, Barbara Ellison Rosenblit, Corinne Skott, Lesley Yalen

Module Content



In Grace Paley’s 1959 short story “The Loudest Voice,” Shirley Abramowitz, a Jewish student in a public elementary school, is asked to be the narrator of her school’s Christmas pageant. Shirley is excited about the opportunity, but her parents—Jewish immigrants who left Europe for a better life in New York City—disagree with each other about whether or not she should do it. In depicting American Jews trying to navigate the Christmas season, this story points to the many dilemmas faced by Jews and other immigrants living as minorities in America. Born in 1922, Paley herself was raised in New York by Jewish immigrant parents. In her relatively small body of work, mostly short stories and poems, Paley portrays the lives, loves, and languages of that milieu as well as any author ever has, making her a must-read writer for those studying the Jewish or multicultural American experience.

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