Reyna Grande, author of the award-winning “The Distance Between Us,” discussed her 3rd book at the Herrick District Library in Holland and on Grand Valley’s Allendale Campus March 24-25, 2014.
Her Michigan/Ohio tour included the following venues:
•• Monday, March 24, 7 p.m., Herrick District Library;
•• Tuesday, March 25, 7 p.m., Kirkhof Center, Grand River Room.
•• Wednesday, March 26, 7 p.m., Monroe County Community College, La-Z-Boy Center, Meyer Theater; followed by Brown Bag Discussion, March 27, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m., Monroe County Community College, La-Z-Boy Center, Atrium.
•• Thursday, March 27, 6-9 p.m., University of Toledo Book Store/Barnes & Noble, 1430 Secor Rd.—Ms. Grande met with El Centro de la Mujer at 6:30 p.m. and then addressed over 60 guests at the UT book store. Afterwards, she signed numerous copies of her book. This event was sponsored by Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE), the University of Toledo’s Diversity Lecture Series, the Spanish American Organization (SAO), Cleveland attorney Richard Herman, and La Prensa.
Grande’s 3rd book brings to the forefront a discussion of immigration and citizenship as it details her childhood spent torn between two parents and two countries. Grande’s Mexican parents leave their children behind to make the dangerous trek across the border in search of a better life. When Grande arrives in Los Angeles, California at age 9, she adjusts to life as an undocumented immigrant and learns that life in the United States is far from perfect.
Published in 2012, “The Distance Between Us” was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. The School Library Journal named it “One of the Best Adult Books for Teens” in 2012, and it was listed that year as one of the 15 best books by the Christian Science Monitor. Grande received the American Book Award for her first novel, Across a Hundred Mountains. She also earned the El Premio Aztlán Literary Award and the Latino Book Award.
Ms. Grande advised all audiences that immigration reform was extremely important and further delay would continue the pain felt by U.S. citizen-children, born to undocumented immigrants. She said that, ironically, in 1986 it was a Republican president—Ronald Reagan—that granted amnesty to some 3 million undocumented individuals, but that it was now the Republicans that block immigration reform—the ultimate “outcome was to harm millions of U.S. citizens, born to undocumented immigrants.”
With guidance by one of her high school teachers, she went on to graduate from college, the first in her family.
When she’s not writing, Reyna Grande teaches English as a second language to adults, most of whom are undocumented immigrants. Grande claims she sees her parents in them. Some of her students have children in other countries, and they struggle daily to find a way to be reunited with their sons and daughters.
In her classroom Grande sees hardworking people who came to this country to flee miserable poverty at home. “I don’t see criminals,” she declares, “I see human beings who want what’s best for themselves and their children.”
Reyna’s father left because he had two choices: 1) Stay in México and see his children suffer, with no possibility of a better future, or 2) Leave for the United States and give them a chance to succeed in life. By choosing to leave, Reyna’s father gave her the greatest gift a parent can give a child—the possibility to succeed!
Two years after he left, Reyna’s father sent for her mother. He returned home five years later and brought Reyna and her siblings to the United States, leaving Reyna’s mother and their sister
behind. By then, Reyna was almost ten.
On their first attempt to cross the border from Tijuana, Reyna became sick and suffered from fever most of the way. Her father carried her on his back…up until they were caught.
On the second attempt, they got caught again. By this time Reyna’s father was getting frustrated. He wanted to take his three oldest children back to Guerrero and forget the whole thing. But he vowed to try one last time—this time crossing the border at night. Reyna vividly remembers the darkness, holding her sister’s hand and being afraid of getting lost. She remembers the helicopter flying above them, and running, trying to find a place to hide. But in the end they actually made it.
But life in the United States was definitely not the dream Reyna had envisioned. She was enrolled in the fifth grade in Aldama Elementary in Highland Park, CA, although in México she was just finishing third grade. As she didn’t speak English, she was put in a corner to be taught by the teacher’s assistant. Her teacher didn’t speak Spanish, so for the rest of the year Reyna yearned, but could not, communicate with her.
Reyna’s father truly believed in the value of education, drilling into his children’s heads that they were lucky to be living in America. He often threatened to send his them back to México if they didn’t learn English and get good grades. He frequently stressed the importance of having a stable job, a retirement account, and owning a house. But Reyna’s father, like her mother, had demons of his own. His alcoholism and own disillusionment caused an irreparable break between him and his children.
Reyna Grande persevered, however, and is now living the US-American dream. “By leaving Mexico,” she says, “My father changed the course of my life completely. Because I live in the United States, I am a college graduate and a teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District. I have my own house. I have a car. Best of all, I am a published author.
“Only in the United States can a person go from being an undocumented immigrant to a published author.”
Source: Publishers of “La Distancia Entre Nosotros.”