Friday, March 11, 2005

In My Grandmother's House: Award-Winning Authors Tell Stories About Their Grandmothers, edited and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen

In My Grandmother's House: Award-Winning Authors Tell Stories About Their Grandmothers, edited and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen (Harper, 2003). A collection of short stories by children's authors about their own grandmothers. Contributing authors included: Joan Abelove; Alma Flor Ada, Bonnie Christensen; Beverly Cleary; Pat Cummings; Jean Craighead George; Minfong Ho; Ji-li Jang; Gail Carson Levine; Beverly Naidoo; Cynthia Leitich Smith; and Diane Stanley. Ages 8-up. NYPL Books For The Teenage.

My Thoughts

My contribution to the anthology, titled "The Naked Truth" was probably the most difficult story I ever had to write. I admire folks who do memoir, but I felt awkward reflecting myself and my real-life grandma(s).

I suspect it was in some ways a more interpersonally difficult assignment for me than some of the other authors because both of my grandmothers were (and still are) living. I worried about which grandmother to feature. I worried about how they'd both feel. I worried about how the whole thing would go over at their local small-town beauty parlors.

In the end, my grandma Dorothy just seemed more comfortable talking about her life than my grandma Melba, which I respected. So, selecting a subject became easier. That said, it still wasn't biography, so much as fiction inspired by real life.

The plot centers around a nude painting (by my grandfather, an artist) in her basement and the day I figured out "the naked lady" was--gasp--grandma.

What it's about, though, is how we tend to see people as frozen at one stage of their life without remembering all that has happened before and will happen since.

The really neat thing was that I flew to Kansas City to do the research, and my grandma and I stayed awake all night talking about everything under Halloween's full moon. It's a memory I'll always treasure, just as I do her.

More globally, it was an honor to have my story published in such great company, Bonnie did an amazing job with her art, and the verdict of the beauty parlor was thumbs-up!

More Praise For In My Grandmother's House

Voya: "The most entertaining contributions are Cynthia Leitch Smith's The Naked Truth, in which a granddaughter discovers that the nude figure painted in the basement is her grandmother, and Gail Carson Levine's A Visit to Grandma's, as a granddaughter speaks out about her grandmother and her great aunts' disrespect of her mother."

School Library Journal: "An old painting in the basement allows Cynthia Leitich Smith to see her grandmother for who she really is, and to see herself in a new light as well."

Booklist: "A fine collection that will encourage teens to reflect on their own families and recognize the individuals behind the family roles."

Cynsational Links

An Interview with Beverly Cleary by Miriam Drennan from BookPage in August 1999. Focus is on the release of Ramona's World.

Author Profile Jean Craighead George: author profile and interview from teenreads.com.

Let It Be Hope by Kristen D. Randle, following an introduction by editor Chris Crowe, from Kristen's Web site. Originally published in the March 2001 issue of the English Journal. Kristin's novels include Breaking Rank (Harper, 1999), which I adored. Also check out her Quilt Collection.

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