The Distance Between Us

The Distance Between Us

by Reyna Grande

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781451661781
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication date: 03/12/2013
Pages: 325
Sales rank: 17,603
Product dimensions: 8.20(w) x 5.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Reyna Grande is an award-winning author, motivational speaker, and writing teacher. As a girl, she crossed the U.S.–Mexico border to join her family in Los Angeles, a harrowing journey she chronicled in The Distance Between Us, which was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. She is also the author of the novels Dancing with Butterflies and Across a Hundred Mountains. She lives in Woodland, CA with her husband and two children.

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.

What People are Saying About This

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.”

From the Publisher

“In this poignant memoir about her childhood in Mexico, Reyna Grande skillfully depicts another side of the immigrant experience—the hardships and heartbreaks of the children who are left behind. Through her brutally honest firsthand account of growing up in Mexico without her parents, Grande sheds light on the often overlooked consequence of immigration—the disintegration of a family.”

—Sonia Nazario, Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of Enrique's Journey

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.”

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

The Distance Between Us
By Reyna Grande

About the Book

Reyna is two when her father leaves the family in Mexico and crosses the border into the United States, hoping to earn enough money to build a home in Mexico when he returns. When he sends for their mother, but leaves Reyna, Mago, and Carlos behind, the siblings suffer great hardship and poverty under the unforgiving hands of their father’s mother, Abuela Evila. Abandoned by both parents, the three endure but long for the return of their mother and a father for whom they have little memory. Their mother returns with a baby sister, Elizabeth, setting off a chain of on-again and off-again contact with her children. When their father returns after an eight-year absence and takes Reyna, Mago, and Carlos with him across the border, a new window of opportunity presents itself; however, Reyna, Mago, and Carlos must also deal with their father’s alcoholic rage. Recounted in astonishing detail, this memoir narrates one girl’s journey out of poverty and her infinite capacity to forgive and love.

Prereading Question

Describe a time in which you felt abandoned or separated from a loved one. How did you resolve your feelings?

Questions for Discussion

1. Reyna is two years old when her father leaves Iguala for El Otro Lado (the other side). Why does he leave? Why do Reyna, her mother, and her two siblings—Mago and Carlos—stay behind?

2. When Reyna turns four, her father sends for her mother. Reyna, Mago, and Carlos are left to live with their father’s mother (Abuela Evila). Describe Reyna’s feelings regarding her mother’s leaving and her mother’s absence during these early years.

3. Who is “The Man Behind the Glass”? What does he symbolize?

4. Reyna wishes to stay with Abuelita Chinta instead of Abuela Evila. Compare and contrast the two grandmothers and their attitudes and behaviors toward their grandchildren. Are Reyna, Mago, and Carlos better off once they begin living with Abuelita Chinta? Why or why not? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.

5. Who is Élida and why is she favored by Abuela Evila? Is her behavior toward Reyna, Mago, and Carlos justified? Why or why not?

6. In what way does Tía Emperatriz come to the aid of Reyna, Mago, and Carlos? Could she have done more for the three siblings? Why or why not?

7. Describe Reyna’s relationship with her sister Mago. Why does Mago feel responsible for Reyna?

8. Describe the hardships Reyna, Mago, and Carlos face growing up in Iguala.

9. What reactions do the three siblings have when they learn they have a younger sister, Elizabeth? Who seems the most impacted by this news and why?

10. Why does Reyna’s mother, Juana, return alone from the United States? How does life change for Reyna, Mago, and Carlos when she returns?

11. Who is Rey and why do Reyna, Mago, and Carlos not like him? What happens when he visits the family during the holidays?

12. Compare and contrast Mago’s and Reyna’s feelings toward their mother as time after time she chooses her own needs over those of her children. Does she love her children? Use evidence from the text to support your response.

13. As Carlos matures, he has a need for a father figure. Identify the male role models in his life and explain the influences they have on his development.

14. When Reyna’s father returns from the United States after an eight-year absence, Reyna is almost ten. How does she feel about his return? Why does he return and why does he offer to take Mago back to the United States with him? Why does he want to leave Reyna and Carlos behind?

15. How does Reyna feel about the possible separation from Mago? Why does their father decide to take all three children back with him? Describe their harrowing journey. Is life better for them once they reach the United States? Support your answer with evidence from the text.

16. Mila is Natalio’s second wife. What are Reyna’s earliest perceptions of her? What influence does Milo have on Reyna, Mago, and Carlos?

17. Reyna attends school in both Mexico and the United States. Compare and contrast her experiences in both places. What can readers learn about the challenges poor children have in negotiating school?

18. Reyna does not speak English when she enters school in the United States. How does she overcome this challenge? How is she received by her teachers? By her classmates? What accounts for her ability to succeed?

19. Reyna’s father believes in education and supports Mago and Carlos when they enroll in college. Why does he not help Reyna? How does his refusal impact Reyna?

20. To whom does Reyna owe thanks for her success? Why? Do you agree or disagree and why?

Questions for Further Discussion

1. What does Grande’s memoir tell us about the struggles of second language acquisition students in American schools?

2. The Distance Between Us is a memoir. What characteristics of a memoir can you identify in the story?

3. Compare and contrast Mago’s experiences as a student in Mexico and the United States. What drives her to succeed despite her challenges?

4. Despite her on-again off-again relationship with her father, Reyna yearns to make her father proud. In what ways did this desire serve her well? In what ways did it not? How is she able to release her guilt and anger toward her father? Identify and discuss a passage or scene in which she grows the most in her understanding of his capabilities.

5. How do Reyna’s perceptions of her mother evolve with time? Use examples from the text to support your response.

6. How might this story be different if it were written from another character’s point of view (e.g.: Mago, Carlos, either parent, or either grandparent)?

7. When Reyna returns to Iguala to visit her family, how does she reflect on your youth living in Mexico? How do her attitudes differ from those of her sister Mago? What accounts for their differences?

8. Compare and contrast the ways in which Reyna, Mago, and Carlos deal with the on-again off-again relationships with their parents? What accounts for their different responses?

9. As Reyna matures into a young woman, how does she resolve her feelings of being abandoned by both her mother and father? Does she view one parent as having been the better parent? Why or why not?

10. How does The Distance Between Us contribute to a growing body of literature about emigration to the United States? About the challenges facing children for whom English is a second language?

Guide written by Pam B. Cole, Professor of English Education & Literacy Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading club use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

This guide was written to align with the Common Core State Standards (www.corestandards.org).

Customer Reviews

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The Distance Between Us: A Memoir 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
vbecerra More than 1 year ago
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!
Elaine_Campbell More than 1 year ago
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.
Two2dogs More than 1 year ago
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!
kjacqueline More than 1 year ago
The memoir The Distance Between Us showed the hardships and hard work Reyna Grande had to go through. I enjoyed this memoir because it gave an inside look to how somebody can build themselves up and get to where they are today. The Distance Between Us isn’t just about trying to make it to America, it’s about what you do to make yourself better when you get there and what you have to go through first. This book was great and I would definitely re-read it again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written. The reader gets lost in the story and it becomes so real.
Miranda More than 1 year ago
When I read this book, time went really fast because the author has the ability to touch other people. Her story is a little sad but she always use a another way to think about her life. I felt touching when she described how her siblings and her are bond to each other because they did not have parents beside them. The bond between the author and her sister is invaluable. Moreover, when the author chose to forgive her father, I could not help crying. It was sad but somehow touching when she wrote’’You made me who I am.’(Reyna Grande 322) The author kept ask herself if she had know what life she would have with her father in the U.S., would she still followed him to this country. It is a deep question because the author faced to many dilemma because of her father’s poor when she immigrated to the U.S. However, her father gave her a chance to be educated. She had the opportunity to write. She even became a english teacher in Pasadena City College. Thus, the answer for her question is yes when she saw her father took his last breath. Although I don’t know if the author is a descriptive or great author or not, the thing I am definitely sure is that her attitude to her life and family makes her tone and writing style beautiful and warm.The memorable quotes about this book :''You made me who I am.''( Reyna Grande 320)This quotes represents a bond between her father and her. That is invaluable. Another quotes is ''But no poverty we felt behind. ( Reyna Grande 250)This shows that what life she had in the U.S. However, she never gives up. That also reminds me how lucky I am because at least I have a god life. I do not need to worry about money. “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.” –Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street I like this book. The author she describes her story in easy way. She did not spoil her life or her succeed. She just tell us how she gets over the difficult she had. That enlightens me a lot. I hope everyone who keep complain about their life should read this book so that they can reflect how fortunate they are. “Reyna Grande is a fierce, smart, shimmering light of a writer with an important story to tell.” –Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail 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.” –Slate I like this book. The author she describes her story in easy way. She did not spoil her life or her succeed. She just tell us how she gets over the difficult she had. That enlightens me a lot. I hope everyone who keep complain about their life should read this book so that they can reflect how fortunate they are.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book that brought back many memories and helped me understand many things I already knew but couldn't put together
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
[ I caaaan't. . . ] <p> "Hm?" She asked distractedly, zitting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful Memoir. Highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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