In the film, Olsen says she started writing about the lives of the working people she grew up with because "it was nearly impossible to find them in any of the books I read." While still in her teens, she began writing the novel "Yonnondio," which she took up again and published in the early '70s. In this Depression-era tale of a family struggling to survive, the mother, Anna, dies of a botched abortion she performs on herself.I use Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing” when I teach intro to Lit. There is a recording of Olsen reading the story in a kind of flat voice that’s still somehow expressive, perhaps because it is so clinical. Middle-class students often don’t connect easily with the story, but if I have students whose parents have worked three crappy jobs at a time to pay for university, those kids really seem to understand the story.
Tony Christini at A Practical Policy notes there is a new documentary about the American writer Tillie Olsen, by filmmaker Ann Hershey. From the SF Gate story about the film: