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I Stand Here Ironing by Tillie Olsen

This story is basically autobiographical. Olsen added a few things here and there that don’t line up with her life, but the overall tale mimics the issues she endured with her eldest daughter.

Told in first-person narrative, the story begins with the mother explaining that she can no longer be held accountable for the things her young adult daughter does. The story begins with someone telling her that she must do something about her daughter’s behavior, and she listens while ironing. The narrator then starts running through all of the things that went gone wrong during her first child’s upbringing.

After being left to raise her first daughter alone, our narrator had no choice but to send her away several times in hopes of a better chance at life. However, this backfires, resulting in her daughter developing many social and abandonment issues. The narrator accepts that she cannot change the past, remaining unapologetic. Yet, she marvels in the silver lining of what comes out of her daughter’s problems: comedy.

Olsen, a pioneer of her time, wrote the story in 1961, and any reader can feel the feminine power behind it. The fact that her character, and Olsen herself, refuses to feel guilty about things she can never change when she had good intentions, was ground breaking for women at the time, and just a joy to read.

Good County People by Flannery O’Connor

Although the story itself is not autobiographical, O’Connor’s tale of mother and daughter has some reminiscence of the situation she had with her own mother.

Unlike I Stand Here Ironing, O’Connor penned a mother-daughter relationship that isn’t perfect, but its imperfections make it hilarious. Mrs. Hopewell is an eternal optimist who has the pleasure of taking care of her cynical, college educated daughter. The story will make you laugh as it pokes fun at people who think they know everything just because they hold a degree. More than one time, the reader can easy imagine Mrs. Hopewell trying hard not to roll her eyes at her daughter’s nativity. Common sense wins over stubborn pretentiousness in this tale, and a wooden leg makes it no less interesting.

O’Connor, who was diagnosed with lupus at a young age, moved back in with her mother after completing her degree. The funny jabs and pokes between a mother and her child in many of her short stories is clearly the result of living with her family. The dynamic made for great reading material for us!

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