Back Nancy Hale, “The Earliest Dreams”

Nancy Hale (1908–1988)
From Where the Light Falls: Selected Stories of Nancy Hale

Lilian Wescott Hale in the Fenway Studios, undated oil on canvas by Philip Leslie Hale (1865–1931). This portrait by Nancy Hale’s father of her mother is currently at the Davis Museum, Wellesley, Massachusetts. (The Athenaeum)

“The writer Lauren Groff wants you to know she is on a rescue mission.” Mary Louise Kelley opened her interview with Groff on yesterday’s broadcast of All Things Considered. “The object of her efforts is a writer named Nancy Hale. If you’ve never heard of Nancy Hale, that is precisely the point. Hale published her first short story in The New Yorker when she was twenty-one. In the three decades since her death in 1988, Hale has been almost entirely forgotten. . . .”

During the course of a career lasting nearly six decades, Nancy Hale was a magazine editor, the first woman reporter at The New York Times to cover the city news beat, and the author of seven novels, four books for young readers, two memoirs, two plays, a collection of literary essays, a much-admired biography of Mary Cassatt, and nearly two hundred stories, including eighty that appeared in The New Yorker.

Groff has selected and edited twenty-five of the best Nancy Hale stories for inclusion in Where the Light Falls, published last week by Library of America. We present as our Story of the Week selection “The Earliest Dreams,” the opening piece in the collection—a short four-pager that, decades before it became a common hat trick among writers, uses the second person to describe a small child’s bedtime experience while the adults are partying downstairs. In addition, an appreciation by the award-winning writer Ann Beattie follows the story.

Read “The Earliest Dreams” by Nancy Hale

Library of America

A champion of America’s great writers and timeless works, Library of America guides readers in finding and exploring the exceptional writing that reflects the nation’s history and culture.

Learn More

From poetry, novels, and memoirs to journalism, crime writing, and science fiction, the more than 300 volumes published by Library of America are widely recognized as America’s literary canon.

Browse our books Subscribe

With contributions from donors, Library of America preserves and celebrates a vital part of our cultural heritage for generations to come.

Support our mission