The Distance Between Us: A Memoir

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Overview


From an award-winning novelist and sought-after public speaker, an eye-opening memoir about life before and after illegally emigrating from Mexico to the United States.

After publishing two acclaimed and award-winning novels about the Mexican immigrant experience and the families forced to navigate its twists and turns, celebrated author Reyna Grande reveals her own troubled and triumphant story as an illegal immigrant in the heartfelt memoir ...

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Overview


From an award-winning novelist and sought-after public speaker, an eye-opening memoir about life before and after illegally emigrating from Mexico to the United States.

After publishing two acclaimed and award-winning novels about the Mexican immigrant experience and the families forced to navigate its twists and turns, celebrated author Reyna Grande reveals her own troubled and triumphant story as an illegal immigrant in the heartfelt memoir The Distance Between Us.

Born in Mexico and raised by her grandparents after her parents left to find work in the U.S., at nine years old, Reyna enters the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant to live with her father. Filled with hope, she quickly realizes that life in America is far from perfect. Her father isn’t the man she dreamed about all those years in Mexico. His big dreams for his children are what gets them across the border, but his alcoholism and rage undermine all his hard work and good intentions. Reyna finds solace from a violent home in books and writing, inspired by the Latina voices she reads. After an explosive altercation, Reyna breaks away, going on to become the first person in her family to obtain a higher education, earning a college degree and then an M.F.A. in Creative Writing.

At a time when immigration politics are at a boiling point in America, Reyna Grande is an important public voice for Mexican Americans and immigrants of every origin. The Distance Between Us has the power to change minds and hearts.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Award-winning novelist (Across a Hundred Mountains) Grande captivates and inspires in her memoir. Raised in Mexico in brutal poverty during the 1980s, four-year-old Grande and her two siblings lived with their cruel grandmother after both parents departed for the U.S. in search of work. Grande deftly evokes the searing sense of heartache and confusion created by their parents’ departure. Eight years later her father returned and reluctantly agreed to take his children to the States. Yet life on the other side of the border was not what Grande imagined: her father’s new girlfriend’s indifference to the three children becomes more than apparent. Though Grande’s father continually stressed the importance of his children obtaining an education, his drinking resulted in violence, abuse, and family chaos. Surrounded by family turmoil, Grande discovered a love of writing and found solace in library books, and she eventually graduated from high school and went on to become the first person in her family to graduate from college. Tracing the complex and tattered relationships binding the family together, especially the bond she shared with her older sister, the author intimately probes her family’s history for clues to its disintegration. Recounting her story without self-pity, she gracefully chronicles the painful results of a family shattered by repeated separations and traumas (Aug.)
Dallas Morning News
“Grande connects readers with intimacy to the enormous emotional dislocation children suffer when parents leave them behind. She grabs your heart and strums music on it. She gives a pulse to her profound statistic that 80 percent of Latin American children in U.S. schools have been separated from a parent in the migration process. It is one of very few stats in a book of simple prose and ironic metaphor.”
Library Journal
After writing two award-winning novels, Grande gets down to the nitty-gritty and chronicles her life as an undocumented immigrant, from her border crossing at age nine. The distance widens between her and her father until she must finally make her own life. Brave memoir.
Kirkus Reviews
In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family's cycle of separation and reunification. Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family's only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents' love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator's hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define--in the U.S., her name's literal translation, "big queen," led to ridicule from other children--and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence "my mamá loves me" (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to "rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?" A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.
Slate
“The sadness at the heart of Grande’s story is unrelenting; this is the opposite of a light summer read. But that’s OK, because . . . this book should have a long shelf life.”
The Daily Beast
“A timely and a vivid example of how poverty and immigration can destroy a family.”
Booklist
“The poignant yet triumphant tale Grande tells of her childhood and eventual illegal immigration puts a face on issues that stir vehement debate.”
LA Times
“A brutally honest book…akin to being the “Angela’s Ashes” of the modern Mexican immigrant experience.”
San Antonio Express News
“Powerful, harrowing.”
From the Publisher
"Reyna Grande's extraordinary journey towards the American dream will be an inspiration to anyone who has ever dreamed of a better life.”

—Ligiah Villalobos, Writer and Executive Producer of La Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon)

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail - Cheryl Strayed
“Reyna Grande is a fierce, smart, shimmering light of a writer with an important story to tell.”
Sandra Cisneros
“I’ve been waiting for this book for decades. The American story of the new millennium is the story of the Latino immigrant, yet how often has the story been told by the immigrant herself? What makes Grande’s beautiful memoir all the more extraordinary is that, through this hero’s journey, she speaks for millions of immigrants whose voices have gone unheard.”
Washington Independent Review of Books
“Eloquent, honest storytelling. This book would be fabulous required reading for college freshmen or, even better, for freshman members of Congress,”
BookPage
“An important piece of America’s immigrant history.”
Christian Science Monitor
“Accomplishes one of the great things books can do: make an abstract idea real.”
Alegria Magazine
“Personal, heart-wrenching, and ultimately triumphant. . . . An engaging writer with a talent for infusing her narrative with personal and affecting characterizations and stories, Grande truly offers an unprecedented look into the immigration experience. . . . The Distance Between Us has the power to change minds and hearts.”
NBC Latino
“Heart-warming. . . . Even with the challenges of learning English, earning good grades and fighting her way through turbulent adolescence, Grande emerged as a successful writer whose prose has the potential to touch the generation of youth whose story is so reminiscent of her own.”
The Hispanic Reader
“Told in simple, easy to read—yet descriptive—prose. . . . An inspirational book for young Latinos or anyone who has faced adversity. Just keep those tissues handy.”
La Bloga
“Shows off Grande’s exceptional writing skill. . . . The writer’s economy of detail enriches the reading. . . . Anyone who reads The Distance Between Us will find the distance between their insularity and the humanity of immigrants is the two inches occupied in the memoir’s 322 pages.”
The California Report
“Generous and humble. . . . Makes palpable a human dilemma and dares us to dismiss it.”
Texas Observer
“Many of us find it difficult to practice diplomacy with our relatives. But when typical family squabbles are complicated by national borders—as they are in Reyna Grande’s excellent new memoir—the stakes are raised far higher than ‘Who’s cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year?’”
author of The House of Mango Street Sandra Cisneros
“I’ve been waiting for this book for decades. The American story of the new millenium is the story of the Latino immigrant, yet how often has the story been told by the immigrant herself? What makes Grande’s beautiful memoir all the more extraordinary is that, through this hero’s journey, she speaks for millions of immigrants whose voices have gone unheard.”
Los Angeles Review of Books
“A deeply personal coming-of-age story that extols the power of self-reliance and the love of books.”
The Christian Science Monitor One the 15 Best Books of 2012
Latina Style
"Has the power to change minds and hearts."
The Christian Science Monitor
One the 15 Best Books of 2012
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451661774
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 8/28/2012
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 952,571
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.16 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author


Reyna Grande is the author of two award-winning novels. Across a Hundred Mountains received an American Book Award, and Dancing with Butterflies was the recipient of an International Latino Book Award. Reyna lives in Los Angeles.
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Read an Excerpt


Prologue

Reyna, at age two

MY FATHER’S MOTHER, Abuela Evila, liked to scare us with stories of La Llorona, the weeping woman who roams the canal and steals children away. She would say that if we didn’t behave, La Llorona would take us far away where we would never see our parents again.

My other grandmother, Abuelita Chinta, would tell us not to be afraid of La Llorona; that if we prayed, God, La Virgen, and the saints would protect us from her.

Neither of my grandmothers told us that there is something more powerful than La Llorona—a power that takes away parents, not children.

It is called The United States.

In 1980, when I was four years old, I didn’t know yet where the United States was or why everyone in my hometown of Iguala, Guerrero, referred to it as El Otro Lado, the Other Side.

What I knew back then was that El Otro Lado had already taken my father away.

What I knew was that prayers didn’t work, because if they did, El Otro Lado wouldn’t be taking my mother away, too.

Prologue

Reyna, at age two

MY FATHER’S MOTHER, Abuela Evila, liked to scare us with stories of La Llorona, the weeping woman who roams the canal and steals children away. She would say that if we didn’t behave, La Llorona would take us far away where we would never see our parents again.

My other grandmother, Abuelita Chinta, would tell us not to be afraid of La Llorona; that if we prayed, God, La Virgen, and the saints would protect us from her.

Neither of my grandmothers told us that there is something more powerful than La Llorona—a power that takes away parents, not children.

It is called The United States.

In 1980, when I was four years old, I didn’t know yet where the United States was or why everyone in my hometown of Iguala, Guerrero, referred to it as El Otro Lado, the Other Side.

What I knew back then was that El Otro Lado had already taken my father away.

What I knew was that prayers didn’t work, because if they did, El Otro Lado wouldn’t be taking my mother away, too.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 9, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    VERY HIGHLY RECOMMEND I loved this book, its a memoir so that ma

    VERY HIGHLY RECOMMEND
    I loved this book, its a memoir so that makes it more powerful. Immigrants never leave their home country because they want to its ALWAYS for a beter life for themselves and their families. This story tells of the heartbreaking effects it has on the children left behind. I've read all three of Reyna Grande's books and enjoyed them all, I hope with all my heart she continues to write, the Mexican American community needs her!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2013

    I loved this book! As a teacher I am always searching for books

    I loved this book! As a teacher I am always searching for books that will help me to understand my students, where they come from, and how I can be a better teacher to them. I have read several books about Mexico and immigration, and I would rate this as one of the best. Reyna Grande has opened her heart and shared her life with us so that we can understand the predicament that so many of our students find themselves in. So many feel rejected by both countries. Adolescence is difficult at best, our immigrant children have even more obstacles to overcome. Language while the most obvious is not the only challenge they face. I love this story because it is a story of success, love and determination. The actions of a teacher made a difference in the life of a child who really could have gone either way. At a time when everyone has an opinion about immigration we need to remember compassion. I have read all 3 of Reyna Grande's books and I am anxiously awaiting her next book! Thank you Reyna Grande!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 29, 2012

    Wow. Where to begin? This book is amazing. It shares the story i

    Wow. Where to begin?
    This book is amazing. It shares the story immigration from the point of view we so rarely hear about, the point of view from those that are left behind. It is empowering to read about the struggles that Ms. Grande encountered and still managed to overcome them to now become a successful writer. Reading about Ms. Grande's difficult life has filled me with the much needed motivation to continue to fight any obstacles that stand in my way and become the most successful person I can be. The American dream has not been so beautifully written until now.
    You must read it for yourself!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A deeply moving and excellently written memoir that leaves the r

    A deeply moving and excellently written memoir that leaves the reader with much food for thought. And for those of us that have often wondered about the lives of immigrants from our neighbor country to the south and the lives of the very poor in Mexico, this book opens a door of knowledge and feeling that can't help but leave an indelible imprint on our very identities.

    It must have taken great courage to write this book because writing a memoir involves a revisitation to the past and intensive refocusing on some areas one would rather gloss over and not dwell upon. The story begins in Iguala when Reyna is very young. Already her father has left the family and gone to "el otro lado" in search of a better life. Reyna and her siblings, Mago and Carlos, do not see him again for many years. Eventually their mother leaves as well to join her husband, and the children are left with cruel (I would venture to describe the grandmother as sadistic) grandparents. Through the strength and guidance of the elder sister, Mago, the children were able to endure extrenely negative circumstances.

    When the father leaves the mother for another woman, she returns to Mexico. Yet she is strangely uncommitted to her children; her own needs never having been fulfilled, she is unable to leave that vortex to administer to others, except sporadically. When she abandons the children several times, their father reappears and he decides to risk illegally crossing the border with them. Thus begins a new life and a turning point of the book. All is not sunshine and roses, however. The children are able to regain some of their health; they have access to superior education; but their father is an alcoholic with an explosive, often violent temper and beatings in the home are a way of life. What saves Reyna from repeating the abuse syndrome appears to be her love of beauty and the arts. These may have been the impetuses that led to scholastic, and later, professional achievements. The writing style is condensed (no flacid wandering in this book), the chapters in the main are short, each having a powerful impact, and the similes are always of concrete objects, one even referring to cotton candy. Down to earth, this book does not have a dishonest moment. Highly recommended, but get out your hanky. Even if for tears of joy, it may be needed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2014

    Disappointed

    This book might be helpful for a teenager who lives in a loveless or abusive home. It reads like the diary of a teenager forever hoping that her parents would give her some positive encouragement and love.

    I was disappointed in the book. I guess I just got tired of her "Woe is me" prose

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2013

    Beautiful Memoir. Highly recommend.

    Beautiful Memoir. Highly recommend.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2013

    Amazing writer---timely and important story

    From the very first page and the image of La Llorona readers will be pulled into Reyna's family story.

    At times heart-wrenching and at other times hopeful, everyone should read. I can see why reviewers and media have loved this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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