Robyn Fivush Ph.D.

The Stories of Our Lives

Why Do Only Famous People Have Biographies?

Two young sisters understand the power of family stories

Posted Feb 20, 2017

Why do only famous people have biographies?  This is the question that two young sisters,7-year-old Aishvarya, and 11-year-old Vaishali, asked their parents.  They were reading biographies in school and realized that they knew more about Beyoncé than about their own grandparents.  So they decided to do something about it. 

They created “Grand Stories”, a workbook that helps grandchildren learn about their grandparents.  Through answering a series of guided questions and telling stories, Grand Stories helps families learn more about each other. A young as they are, these two sisters already appreciate the power of family storytelling.

This family had immigrated from India to the U.S., and all 4 grandparents live very far away.  Obviously through modern technology and some family visits, these young girls know their grandparents and love them very much – but they wondered why they didn’t know more about their grandparents as people, where they grew up, went to school, how they met and married, and raised their families.  What were their stories?  Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the stories they wanted to know mirror the “Do you know” 20-questions that my colleague, Marshall Duke, and I developed to study how much people know of their family history. So Aishvarya and Vaishali decided not only to find out about their own family, but to help other kids learn about their families as well.

The sisters’ father tells about the visit to India when the girls asked their own grandparents to write their biography.  The grandfather, who is a quiet person, did not share much during the interview.  But then he stayed up all night writing his stories, and when the father browsed through the stories, he realized that there was so much he had never known about his own father!  And through these stories the father felt closer to his own family.  Family stories bind us together and define who we are as a family.

What these two young sisters have already discovered is how much we depend on knowing our family stories to understand who we are in the world, what are our strengths and what are our values.  Our family stories are important for young children growing up, and they remain important as we become parents and grandparents.  The workbook that these young girls developed is a great way to start these conversations. 

You can see more about Grand Stories at www.grandstories.bigcartel.com.  Whether you are 7 or 70, it is never too early or too late to start sharing family stories.

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