The awful grandmother

In her semi-autobiographical novel Caramelo, Sandra Cisneros tells the multigenerational story of a Mexican-American family.

Cisneros once explained that she originally just wanted to explain the life of her father. However, to explain her father’s life, she also had to explain the life of her “awful grandmother,” who was her father’s bossy mother. And, she also had to tell the story of her “little grandfather,” her father’s father. For Cisneros, the story kept getting more and more complex.

Near the end of the book, Lala, the main character in Caramelo, explains:

“It hits me at once, the terrible truth of it. I am the Awful Grandmother. For the love of Father, I’d kill anyone who came near him to hurt him or make him sad. I’ve turned into her. And I see inside her heart, the Grandmother, who had been betrayed so many times she only loves her son. He loves her. And I love him….Him inside her, me inside him, like Chinese boxes, like Russian dolls, like an ocean full of waves, like the braided threads of a rebozo….And we are all, like it or not, one and the same.”

As I listened to Fayteen tell me about her cousin Rhonda son, Anthony Shadid, and explain how he and his family are connected to her family and her family story, I thought about Sandra Cisneros and Lala. Fayteen’s family story, just like my story and your story, is a complex story filled with many characters and many connections, a story filled with much happiness and much sadness.


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