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
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
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
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