Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree
Those who, for one reason or another, stand outside the frame of Yuletide cheer often find their voices muted come Christmas. The singing of “Silent Night” leaves us, well, silent.
Not so for the protagonist of “The Loudest Voice,” one of the most celebrated of Grace Paley’s many singular contributions to American arts and letters.
In this short story, the young Shirley Abramowitz is recruited to play the voice of Jesus in her public school’s annual Christmas pageant. “They told me you had a particularly loud, clear voice and read with lots of expression. Could that be true?” inquires Mr. Hilton, who is in search of a “child with a strong voice, lots of stamina.” Flattered, Shirley agrees eagerly to become Jesus, if only for an afternoon. (“It was a long story, it was a sad story…. Sorrowful and loud, I declaimed about love and God and Man.”)