Sharing and saving family stories

In this column, members of Georgia Humanities and their colleagues take turns discussing Georgia’s history and culture, and other topics that matter. Through different voices, we hear different stories.

This week, VAISHALI and AISHVARYA PRAHALAD encourage families to share their stories with each other through GrandStories, a book created to make that process a fun and easy one.  

By Vaishali and Aishvarya Prahalad

Vaishali and Aishvarya Prahald

Vaishali and Aishvarya Prahalad

Our parents once sent us to the library to check out books on Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison. Instead, we came home with an epiphany.

We wondered, “Why should only famous people have their own biographies?” We personally know more about Taylor Swift and Albert Einstein than about our grandfather. We realized that there should be an easy way for ordinary, everyday heroes to easily compose their own biographies, so we wrote down a list of questions and interviewed our grandparents who live in India. It was amazing how much we learned about them.

What began as a conversation is now a popular book called GrandStories. You can fill out the book yourself or you can give it to anyone you admire and have them fill out the handy questions. When they finish answering the questions in the book, it becomes a biography that you can treasure for eternity.

You can give this book to your parents, grandparents, aunts, former school teachers, and even sports coaches — anyone whose biography you would cherish! It serves not only as a memento but also as a historical document.

The book is arranged into several chapters with a series of questions. There are easy biographical questions about the writer — fun facts such as their favorite food, TV show, game etc., —  to thoughtful ones such as their most important value growing up, advice for the future, and so on.

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Our parents supported this endeavor by allowing us to get one box of books printed. We went around the neighborhood and within two hours we had sold all of them.  We even came home with pre-orders for more. The amazing response was testament to the positive emotions our book evokes. Soon we were back at the printer getting more copies printed.

Our journey with GrandStories has been phenomenal so far. We have an online presence, www.grandstories.bigcartel.com, and we have also done book signings and radio shows. The best experience so far has been meeting people at various events.

The anecdotes we hear from people are so compelling:

“My grandma is 99 years old, and is the last of her generation. If she is gone, the entire history of that generation is gone; I spent hours talking to her and documented everything.”

“My mother-in-law started crying when I gave this to her. She said it is the best gift she had received in 70 years of her life, since it showed that we cared to know about her.”

“My grandma escaped to the United States in the 1950s, and it was fascinating to get her to recount her memories. Thanks for this great keepsake.”

Grandstories

Vaishali and Aishvarya donate part of their proceeds to Alzheimer’s research.

Of the several hundred people who have bought copies of our book, many of them have been strangers who value the concept of capturing the cherished memories of their loved ones.

There is another aspect of our journey that has been extremely rewarding. We give 10% of the proceeds to charity. We were extremely proud and humbled to give our first check to support the Emory Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. Even little girls can take big steps in the fight against this great villain.  We also gave a check to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to help with a therapy dog.

We have a mission: in the next seven years, we want 100,000 people to have documented their stories using our books. According to Lao Tzu, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

As the holidays approach and you are planning to spend time with your loved ones, kindly take the time to listen to and capture the stories of amazing everyday heroes in your life.

If you’re ready to capture humanity’s history, one memory at a time, you can reach Vaishali and Aishvarya at [email protected]

Vaishali Prahalad is 10 years old and has a passion for writing.  Her sister (and frenemy) Aishvarya Prahalad is seven years old and reads and writes a lot.  Together they have published GrandStories, a book to help anyone easily write their own biography.

Kelly Caudle and Allison Hutton of Georgia Humanities provide editorial assistance for the “Jamil’s Georgia” columns.

Jamil Zainaldin is president of Georgia Humanities, a nonprofit organization working to ensure that humanities and culture remain an integral part of the lives of Georgians. The organization is a cultural leader in the state as well as a pioneer nationally in innovative history and humanities programs. The New Georgia Encyclopedia is a project of Georgia Humanities, in partnership with the Office of the Governor, the University of Georgia Press, and the University System of Georgia/GALILEO. The first state encyclopedia to be conceived and designed exclusively for publication on the Internet, the NGE is an important and authoritative digital resource for all Georgians.

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