This work first appeared in a story collection in 1984, six years after the author, octogenarian Meridel Le Sueur, had rescued the yellowing manuscript from her basement. Strikingly parallel to Le Sueur's city novel The Girl, I Hear Men Talking was written primarily in the 1930s, depicting life in rural Iowa during the Depression.
In the novel the girl Penelope runs about the town, visiting its principal actors and recovering their stories: the ruined Mr. Littlefield recalls his bygone days of eloquence; the self-deceived Miss Shelly provides a mystery for Penelope to unravel; the farmers talking behind the closed doors of their houses stir up a fresh brew of revolt. Penelope's mother Mona and grandmother Gee recall the author's own family in troubled times.
In this revised edition the novel stands alone. Linda Ray Pratt has carefully re-edited the manuscript and provides a new introduction. In an afterword written in 1984, Meridel Le Sueur considers her reasons for publishing the work: "The artist's duty now is to recreate a new image of the world, to return to the people their need and vision . . . . of a new birth of abundance and equality."