Author: Mary Lerner

irish

Very little is known about the life of the Cambridge, Massachusetts short story writer Mary Lerner, not even the dates of her birth and death. She published several short stories in national magazines, including “Little Selves” which first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in September 1916 and was collected among the Best American Short Stories for that year. Lerner was writing at a time when Irish immigrants were still largely unwelcome, but tolerated for the need to fill open jobs during World War I. Her story, “Little Selves,” highlights the memories of one of these immigrants, Margaret O’Brien, an elderly Irish-American woman at the very end of her life, as she struggles with the realization that her stories will likely disappear when she does.

Little Selves

Mary Lerner

Mary Lerner was writing at a time when Irish immigrants were still largely unwelcome, but tolerated for the need to fill open jobs during World War I. Many of these immigrants treasured vivid memories of their younger—and, at least in memory, more magical—days back in Ireland.