Friday, April 9, 2010
Eye Of My Heart - An Interview With Barbara Graham
WOOF is proud to bring you an interview with Barbara Graham, the author of Women Who Run With Poodles (how perfect for WOOFers!) and Eye Of My Heart...
"Until my granddaughter, Isabelle Eva, was born in 2006, I had no clue just how complicated—and full of wonder—the role of grandmother could be. But when I turned to the place I always turn to for wisdom—books—I couldn’t find anything literary that addressed my alternately joyful, perplexing, painful, amusing—but always profound—new status. And so Eye of My Heart: 27 Writers Reveal the Hidden Pleasures and Perils of Being a Grandmother was born."
A conversation with Barbara Graham, editor of Eye of My Heart, conducted by Mark Matousek, author of When You’re Falling, Dive; and Sex, Death, Enlightenment, and a former editor at Interview magazine.
Q: What made you decide to write about being a grandmother?
A: From the moment my son and daughter-in-law announced that a baby was on the way, I began to get an inkling of just how complicated grandmotherhood could be—especially since they were living overseas at the time and my husband and I lived in Washington.
Q: Is that when you decided on grandmotherhood as a subject?
A: No. But I started keeping a very detailed journal of my experience right after Isabelle Eva was born. There was such a riptide of emotion and, being a writer, I simply had to record it in order to make sense of it. By then my son and daughter-in-law had moved to DC to be near us—an incredible gift—and they found a house a mile away. I held Isabelle when she was just minutes old.
Q: When did you suspect that your experience might turn into a book?
A: Soon after she was born, my daughter-in-law and I were walking her around the neighborhood and it just hit me how radically different grandmotherhood is from motherhood. Interestingly, the same primal protective—even possessive—feelings get triggered, but when you become a grandmother you realize very quickly that you have absolutely no control, no say in anything. That afternoon I understood for the first time that Isabelle is mine—but not mine. I thought it would be interesting to explore the range of emotions and experiences that were getting stirred up.
Q: What made you decide to invite other writers to join you in exploring the subject instead of writing your own book?
A: Originally I planned to write my own book, but when Isabelle was four weeks old my son and his wife concluded that moving to Washington had been a mistake—even though they enjoyed being near us—and one month later they were on a plane headed back to Europe. After that I only saw her in brief, intense spurts, a week here, two weeks there.
Q: That must have been really difficult.
A: There are no words to describe my grief when they left. It felt like a death. But it wasn’t a death, just a dramatic change in circumstances beyond my control. At a certain point, I realized that I simply had to get past my feelings of loss. I had to reconfigure my relationship to my son and his family, as well as my own longing to be involved in Isabelle’s life in an ongoing way, when every visit doesn’t have to be planned months in advance.
Q: Do you think the stories are different now than they were in your grandmother’s time or even when your own mother became a grandmother?
A: Absolutely. Our lives are so different. Most grandmothers I know—certainly those of my boomer generation—work and continue to pursue their own passions in life, which almost always include but aren’t limited to their grandchildren. Many of us have been divorced and our extended families include stepgrandparents, as well as the usual other set of grandparents. Many grandmothers, like me, live far away from the grandkids. My own grandmother lived a few blocks from our house and was available to take care of me at a moment’s notice.
Q: How did you go about finding the contributors?
A: Every which way. I started with two writer friends—Kate Lehrer and Susan Shreve—who are grandmothers. They immediately signed on and suggested other writers. Other friends knew someone who knew someone. I also combed the internet trying to figure which authors whose work I love are grandmothers—not information easily come by. Maybe because it connotes being a woman of a certain age, many writers who are devoted grandmothers don’t mention that fact in their bios. I also called several contributors out of the blue.
Q: Obviously, you got a good response.
A: This was a book waiting to happen. One author said, “This will give me a chance to explore issues I’ve been avoiding since my grandchildren were born.”
Q: I was really struck by just how revealing the stories are. Weren’t the writers worried about offending their adult children?
A: Yes, so much so that two of the contributors wrote under pseudonyms. I encouraged each writer to be as honest as possible without endangering her invitation to future Thanksgiving dinners.
To read more about Barbara Graham, visit her website
New out in Paperback! To order "Eye Of My Heart" on Amazon