Grandmother Stories


When my grandmother passed last spring, I was forced to confront some unsettling and contradictory truths.

  1. I was afraid of my grandmother: I feared her like I do quail eggs and suffocating in an air vent with marshmallows lining the walls. She was the cause of my summer insomnia and the source of my deepest insecurities. However, I did have her to thank for my unflinching efficiency at diaper changing. Now that she was no longer living, I had to worry if she’d haunt me from the grave like she’d always promised.
  2. I knew almost nothing about her before she became my grandmother: This stemmed in part from my fear of my grandmother that I never truly had a heart-to-heart conversation with her. The other reason was that we spoke different primary languages — not English versus Hmong or vice versa, but the cultures we had both been raised in and grew up with … they were just too different for us to ever be able to effectively communicate even when using the same words. I was also a bit near sighted as a child. I thought I knew everything and my grandmother’s life before she became my grandma — it didn’t exist.
  3. I was her favorite least favorite granddaughter: Despite all the trials of our lives together, my grandmother and I had an understanding of each other that few others could claim. I understood her sense of humor and we were always honest with each other. We lived in a constant state of collusion, bargaining our souls for a little bit of each other’s warmth such that when she was no longer there, I realized: I missed her. I was her favorite least favorite granddaughter. The girl who’s name she called out when no other would come.
  4. I loved my grandmother: I only wish I had known sooner. All I have left of her is a headstone, some intimidating portraits and the memory of me at seven years old trying to teach her the few little squiggles that would spell out “May Cha.” That will last me a lifetime.

This project is my tribute to her and all the other Hmong grandmothers out there who love, hate, feed, clothe, babysit and torment us into adulthood. Even when they leave no marks or memories — somehow, I believe, they still have managed to shape our lives and the people we become. That is the nature of grandmothers and their nurturing. Even from afar, their decisions, you have to admit, whether it was to accept or reject certain advances, led us here.

Read the Entries

(Click on the blue title next to the author name for the PDF)

Grandmother By C. Lilian Thaoxaochay

Magical_Place By Kao Shoua Thao

Submit your story to

Entries welcomed in all forms (prose, poetry, video, photography, etc.).


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