Dec 03

Me and My Grandma

Posted by Helen Tinsley in The Alumni Blog on Dec 03, 2012

Helen Tinsley is a 2001 graduate of Bank Street and author of Me and My Grandma – A story for children about AIDS. Copyright © 2012 by Helen Tinsley


Helen TinsleyMe and My Grandma is an intergenerational story about the effects of drugs and AIDS on one African-American family. The story is told through the eyes of a nine-year old girl named Ayesha; and it focuses on the close-knit relationship between Ayesha and her loving Grandma, who is raising her. In the story Ayesha’s biological mother shares (in simplistic terms) how her own self-esteem issues, and need to belong led her to make poor choices that resulted in drug addiction and the eventual contraction of AIDS.

This is an important story because today’s children live in a world vastly different from prior generations, and countless are daily confronted at home or in the streets with many painful and even life-threatening issues. These children need a place where they can begin to understand and make sense of their daily realities, to enable them to cope and survive. However, all children have some exposure to these social issues and problems via the media. Children need to be able to share and express their thoughts and fears. Stories provide a way for children to understand these issues and come to terms with the past, and to transform the present and construct the future within the world around them.

There is a tremendous need for children to see themselves and their families in the stories they hear or read.  It is essential for children to hear stories that accurately reflect and portray their lives. Children need to hear stories that speak to their reality, because there is an inherent power in story. All children need to have their personal life experiences validated, despite whether those experiences are positive or negative. By providing children with stories that reflect their own personal experiences, and their perception of the world, they can begin to find comfort and security in their daily experiences and personal existence. Within every child lie stories that need to be shared, acknowledged, and understood. There are so many voices of children that have not been heard. It is time for adults, to give those precious children the power to use story to help understand, shape and better their lives.

Me and My Grandma explores the issues families face when dealing with a family member who is addicted to drugs and then subsequently contracts AIDS. For far too many children this book speaks to their personal lives and thus provides them with validation of their own experiences, and lets them know that they are not alone. As for children who have no direct experience with the issues and concerns in this book, it can foster understanding and compassion for those whose lives are affected by the devastating effects of drugs and AIDS. This book also helps children understand some of the circumstances that cause so many people to turn to drugs and the daily battle people face in dealing with drug addiction. This story can also develop feelings of caring and compassion towards those who are living and struggling with HIV and AIDS. It is my hope that this story will draw attention to the many complex issues that arise as a result of drugs and AIDS. Hopefully, as a community of people we will begin to work together and combine resources to help address and eliminate these problems.

About the Author

Helen Tinsley is an educator, writer and multi-media artist. She strives to tell the untold, show the unseen and to give voice to the voiceless. Helen has dual Masters degrees from Bank Street Graduate School of Education in NYC and has worked in various capacities from teacher to administrator and is committed to making a difference for all children. Helen is the author of three books and conducts workshops on cultural diversity, “storytelling” and artistic expression. She is the mother of four adult children, and the grandmother of seven children. She currently resides in Philadelphia, Pa. Her website is:

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