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Dear Nana

220 pages2 hours


Recalling lessons from their Grandmothers for inspiration, writers young and old from around the world share stories of bonds between elders and children so tight her smile, silent disappointments, secrets kept and the smells of her kitchen are remembered and cherished many years later. A few of the Dear Nana writers yearn for a woman they will never know; a surprising number report actually seeing and speaking to their grandmothers after her death.
The Nana Tales is an uncommon collection with universal themes of love and loss, joy and pain, dreams lost and dreams come true and the enduring power of family.
The multicultural contributors include a 10-year-old Indian protege from Washington DC (A Dream Come True), a mother of four who lives with her wife on a farm in Connecticut (Don’t Tell Joe), the wife of an Oscar winning composer (The True Story of my Great Gram), a feminist clinical researcher from the Caribbean (Gracie), an American student living in Croatia (She Floats Inside My Head), a Midwestern woman whose grandmother was the first American to give birth to her own grandchildren (Surrogate Grandmother), a British marine biologist (Granny takes the Burnt Toast) and dozens of other voices who pay tribute to their grandmothers with reverence and realism.
The Dear Nana tales demonstrate how a grandmother’s love can take many forms. It’s about sharing snacks in a darkened theater (Movies with Nana), baking indescribably scrumptious dinners and desserts (Grandma’s Special Ingredient, Grandma’s Kitchen) and traveling many miles to retrieve a lost toy (Departures). The grandmothers here are complex and imperfect women who often put their grandkids’ interests before the children they birthed. She embodies infinite patience and understanding, though not always; a few writers recall grandmothers who were critical and distant (Loose Seams) or existing only through the memories of the generations who knew her (The Girl in the Gold Dress).
Gathering the Dear Nana tales, I was particularly astonished by the number of writers who describe how their grandmothers came back to visit them one last time after their death (Epistle for Nana, Lighting Up with Alice, Grandma Martha). Skeptics will say the visions were merely childlike attempts to hold on to the woman they deeply loved. Others will believe it’s proof of the otherworldly sway of grandmothers.
Reading the Dear Nana tales, sometimes into the wee hours of the morning, I felt honored to get to know even a small part of these families and their grandmothers, some still living, others deceased. The privilege of reading the memories and telling their stories left me with a profound sense of longing and loss. It had never occurred to me before that I, like many people, had a grandmother who was "known and unknown." I can count on one hand the occasions I spent time with either of my grandmothers. My father's mother who we called Mo Mo was gentle and strong and when she hugged me I wanted to live in her bosom forever. My other grandmother, Estelle, I met only once and know her mainly through family secrets uncovered. It reminds me of what anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Everyone needs to have access both to grandparents and grandchildren in order to be a full human being.”
Lastly, having spent close to two years with the Dear Nana tales, I now feel somewhat like a parent sending her child off to school to the care of others. Hopefully, Dear Nana will inspire you to recall all the love and contradictions you may have had with your own grandmother and to appreciate her even more.

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