When I Found Grandma
When I Found Grandma
I lay awake in bed for a long time the night after she left. Then I saw Grandma’s bells under her bed.
I stepped into her room. There was a note under the bells.
Keep the bells safe, Maya, it said.
I jingled them gently. They sounded like the sweet tinkle of Grandma’s bangles.
Maya, a little Indian-American girl, wished her grandmother could come to visit, but when Grandma arrives from thousands of miles away, it does not go quite as Maya imagined. Grandma wore fancy and strange clothes; she spoke loudly; she cooked differently, and she pronounced Maya’s name incorrectly. Grandma was more embarrassing and annoying than a pleasant surprise. Even worse, the whole family was going to pray at the temple instead of going on a promised island trip because of Grandma! Just when Maya felt angry and hid Grandma’s prayer bells, she noticed Grandma’s efforts – Grandma suggested that they could pray on the island, she put on “normal clothes”, and she bought a baseball cap at the pier. On the island, Maya’s excitement about the carousel led her to let go of Grandma’s hands and get lost in a noisy world of people. Then she spotted the newly purchased baseball cap bobbing in the air and heard Grandma’s loudly calling her name. Maya found Grandma, and she was never so happy.
Saumiya Balasubramaniam’s beautifully written story shows the cross-cultural and cross-generational conflicts between a granddaughter and a grandmother who have two entirely different cultural backgrounds. Even though the story is told through the first-person perspective of Maya, the granddaughter, readers can still capture between the lines the struggles and confusion from both generations, along with Grandmother’s efforts and Maya’s emerging empathy.
Qin Leng’s illustrations were created using ink and watercolor. The soft lines and tender colours introduce the story of conflicts and confusion in a calm and sweet tone. When it is needed, Grandma’s sari and “All-American” cap pop out to enhance the focus of the plot.
When I Found Grandma is a touching and insightful story. It will certainly resonate with parents and children who navigate between two cultural worlds. It also sends out a positive message to encourage immigrant families to embrace their cultural roots and strengthen family bonds. It would be a great addition to classrooms, libraries and family bookshelves for discussions about cultural identities.
Emma Chen is a Family Literacy Coordinator in a local non-profit literacy organization in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.