February 27, 2019 Laura C.

The Story Behind the Story

Written by Saumiya Balasubramaniam

I am often asked if my stories are based on personal experiences — perhaps that has something to do with my deliberate choice of first-person narration, or the similarity between the profiles of the characters in fiction and personal life.

The seeds are sown in reality, but the tales that spring from them are figments of my imagination — often nurtured over an exceedingly long period of time!

The idea for When I Found Grandma originated five years ago from my parallel piece of non-fiction writing titled “Between Five and Sixty-five.” While that essay recounted my personal observations as I tried to find middle ground between my visiting parent and growing progeny (born and raised in North America), the entertaining and animated dynamics between the two inspired me to expand and create an age-appropriate picture book.

From casual everyday behavior, I have observed that while social /communicational expressions can often be a differentiator or grounds for teasing, they can also really be a reminder of what we have in common. (You like Potayto/I like Pothato.)

When Grandma delights at spotting Maya near the “merry-go-round,” Maya promptly corrects her, saying “carousel.” While she is not wrong in doing so, the nuances in personal/conversational styles can have potential for unwarranted conflict.

As with many adults, Grandma is quite set in her ways and it is challenging for her to comprehend Maya’s preferences. But when the fear of losing sight of her grandchild sets in, she uses everything in her power to reconcile — holding up a baseball cap on her cane, calling Maya by the name she prefers, and setting off to walk in the direction of Maya’s favorite place on the island.

Nothing could be more reassuring to Maya than to find her “special” family when lost amongst a sea of scary strangers. Neither Grandma’s clothing nor her loud mannerisms really matter!

Girl and Grandma find each other in more ways than one.

While assimilated children of a certain age and racial heritage may relate better to the specifics, context and characters, the story arc and exploration of familial love will hold universal appeal.

Neither the narrative nor the events bear any resemblance to real life. The story arc sort of shaped itself over time and several rewrites — two years from conception to final draft and over three years from submission to publication.

The idiosyncrasies and charm of the characters are brilliantly brought to life by Qin’s illustrious illustrations.

When I Found Grandma written by Saumiya Balasubramaniam and illustrated by Qin Leng is now available wherever books are sold.

Contact us

Get in touch with us!