We recently published Lindy Biller’s beautiful “The Grandmothers.”

Here, we ask her two questions about her story:

1) Barcode veins! Some of the grandmothers have barcode veins! What a great line that is, and what a wonderful image. What sparked that particular description for you?

Thank you so much, Cathy! That was one of my favorite images as well. The barcode veins were inspired by my Armenian great grandma, who was a genocide survivor. She had numbers tattooed on her wrist, blurry and faded by the time I knew her, and I remember having so many different feelings about this—sad, angry, a little bit awestruck. At first, I wrote that some of the grandmothers had serial numbers on their wrists, but that felt too overt for this piece, and I was glad when “barcode veins” jumped in during editing. I did write this piece thinking of the grandmothers as genocide survivors, but I think it also applies to other family histories and aging in general. I wanted the story to be surreal and metaphorical enough that readers could interpret the grandmothers through their own lens. 

2) This story was sparked by Meredith Alling’s “Other Babies,” a lovely piece published in Fanzine. What was it about this story that made you decide to write “grandmothers”?

I started writing “The Grandmothers” as part of a workshop with Tucker Leighty-Phillips at Longleaf Review. Tucker used “Other Babies” as a writing prompt, and I absolutely loved it–the beautiful strangeness, the amazing turn near the end, and how it was so relatable as a parent. I decided to write about grandmothers because I’d already been thinking about my great grandma and exploring the possibilities of writing about my family mythology. “Other Babies” is so exciting because at first it feels broad and strange and you’re not quite sure where it’s going, but it leads to a powerful, gut-wrenching conclusion. This broad, sweeping approach felt like an elegant way to write about the vulnerability of growing older, experiencing loss and trauma and the changes to your own body, and being so deeply aware of the fragility of those around you.