Marge Piercy was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, and lived with her parents in a working-class neighborhood. Her Welsh father, Robert Piercy, repaired heavy machinery for the Westinghouse Corporation. Her mother, Bert Bernice Bunnin Piercy, was the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Russia. Piercy had one sibling, her half-brother, Grant. Piercy was raised in the Jewish tradition by her grandmother and mother. Her 1999 publication The Art of Blessing the Day reflects that connection to her Jewish roots.
Political activism was a part of Piercy’s family history. Her maternal grandfather, a labor organizer, was killed while attempting to unionize bakery workers. During adolescence, Piercy had a stormy relationship with her mother, but later said her mother made her a poet. Storytelling was a part of what Piercy termed her “family culture.” Her Jewish heritage, the poverty of her childhood, and a bout with German measles and rheumatic fever that left her a thin and sickly child set Piercy apart from other children. In her loneliness, she turned to books and cats. Later, she became an avid storyteller, inventing elaborate action plots that helped her establish relationships with the neighborhood boys during her junior high school years.
After graduation from a Detroit high school, Piercy entered the University of Michigan on an academic scholarship. She performed well scholastically, motivated by her native curiosity and intelligence, but she rejected the cultural conformity of the...
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