Viewers of Lilly Rivlin’s inspiring film Grace Paley: Collected Shorts are in for much more than a portrait of the artist. Whether you are being introduced for the first time or being given the chance to become reacquainted with a much-beloved writer, this richly quilted narrative offers multiple views of a woman extraordinary and exemplary in her authenticity. Grace Paley is vastly more than a sum of her parts: poet, mother, teacher, and activist.

Rivlin’s documentary effectively breaks down Paley’s life and work into segments, with quotations from the author as well as from her many friends (including luminaries like Alice Walker), and her husband, daughter, and granddaughter. Yet the net effect is to see how the different areas of Paley’s life joined in a vivid and unified whole. For her, clearly, there was no contradiction between feminism and marriage, between a...

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