51 pages 1 hour read

Grace Paley

A Conversation with My Father

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1972

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“A Conversation with My Father”

  • Genre: Fiction; realistic short story
  • Originally Published: 1972
  • Reading Level/Interest: Grades 10-12; college/adult
  • Structure/Length: Approx. 7 pages; approx. 13 minutes on audio
  • Protagonist and Central Conflict: After her bedridden father directs her to craft spare tragedies about ordinary people, a woman writer constructs a story about a mother and son; her father, however, has strong opinions about the story’s outcome.
  • Potential Sensitivity Issues: Drug addiction

Grace Paley, Author

  • Bio: 1922-2007; born in New York City; began her writing career as a poet after becoming a wife and mother and studying poetry at the New School for Social Research; taught at Sarah Lawrence College, 1966-1989; became an activist for antiwar, antiracist, and feminist concerns; two collections of short stories feature a character widely believed to have been modeled after herself; awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship for Fiction (1961); awarded the O’Henry Award (for “Distance,” 1969); received the Fitzgerald Award for Achievement in American Literature (2004)
  • Other Works: Enormous Changes at the Very Last Minute (short story collection; 1974); Later the Same Day (short story collection; 1985)

CENTRAL THEMES connected and noted throughout this Teaching Unit:

  • How Stories Are Told
  • Coming to Terms With Tragedy
  • Intergenerational Conflict

STUDY OBJECTIVES: In accomplishing the components of this Unit, students will:

  • Gain an understanding of postmodernism in literature to prepare for the metafictional element of “A Conversation with My Father.