Yglesias, Helen 1915–2008

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Yglesias, Helen 1915–2008

(Helen Bassine)


See index for CA sketch: Born March 29, 1915, in New York, NY; died March 28, 2008, in New York, NY. Novelist, editor, and author. After a half-century of experience as a daughter, mother, and wife, Yglesias resigned her job as a literary editor for the Nation and began to write about the lives of other women. With no formal training as a writer, she won acclaim for her ability to tell the stories of others in a personal way. Yglesias did not write fairy tales or indulge in happy endings; she wrote of realistic women who grappled with substantial problems and lived ever after with the consequences. Her first novel, How She Died (1972), is on its surface the story of a woman dying of cancer in a mental institution while the lives of her friends and family go on without her; but it is also a look at the American left-wing radicals whose activities flavored the 1930s. Sweetsir (1981) is based on the story of a real woman who killed her abusive husband and was tried for murder. Though she is exonerated, the fictional Sally Sweetsir finds that, for her at least, true freedom is an illusion. The Saviors (1987) explores life in a religious cult through the eyes and memories of an aging woman who left the cult years ago and faces old age without the companionship it offered. The Girls (1999) ventures further into old age, as Yglesias herself was doing, by looking at a fictional quartet of octogenarian (and even older) sisters living alone, musing on their circumstances and contemplating their inevitable fate. The theme of Yglesias's fiction has been described as the family dynamic that crosses social, economic, and ethnic boundaries, and women's place in that sphere. Though her women are strong, capable, and engaged in a similar quest, they are not members of what has grown into the feminist sisterhood. They are individuals, each finding her own way through the labyrinth of life to the central core, which turns out to be within herself. Yglesias also wrote Starting Early, Anew, Over, and Late (1978), a nonfiction work that alternates between her own life story and her observations of other pathfinders, men and women, whose journeys were marked by multiple beginnings.



Yglesias, Helen, Starting Early, Anew, Over, and Late, Rawson, Wade Publishers (New York, NY), 1978.


New York Times, April 7, 2008, p. A21.