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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Cracking the Cliche

Long before she died I've been wanting to capture the story of my grandmother. Recently I started making the daydream a reality: shaping a story, attending writing workshops, researching a culture I know so little about. It all lacked direction until I came a across a bit of writing advice that, in a causal offhand manner, shattered my blissful memoir dreams:  Stories about dead grandmothers don't usually make for a compelling tale. Just like that, my passion and ambition was reduced to a cliche. It's just a story about a dead grandmother.

That crushing moment was quickly followed by a bright idea. I had been struggling with how to reveal this remarkable woman who suffered and thrived, who loved so fiercely that she often seemed more cruel than kind. My attempts at a reverent memoir rang false. It was the notion of a writing cliche opened my eyes to what was wrong. This is no weepy heroic tale, no Angela's Ashes. My Vovó Flora's crazy antics are legendary. Her attempts to control the family more often ended in a comedy of errors than a heart-wrenching scene. If a story about Vovó Flora does not make you laugh, it hasn't been told right. She was no cliche. She was a vibrant, enigmatic woman who could not ever be counted out.

Rather than reduce her life to a heartwarming family history I've decided to chronicle her best, craziest, saddest and most triumphant moments, one post at a time. It's the opposite of liveblogging. It's deadblogging. This is a challenge that frightens me more than anything I've written, because her life looms larger than her tiny 4 foot 11 inch frame ever did. I'm the sort who dances around sensitive topics. The very title of this blog is not my style. Vovó Flora never cared much if she offended someone. She said what what was on her mind.  I'm determined to honor her not with the glowing praise of a eulogy but in the way that she lived - direct and unflinching, and always ready for a good laugh.

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