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.
Mago pointed to a spot on the dirt floor and reminded me that my umbilical cord was buried there. “That way,” Mami told the midwife, “no matter where life takes her, she won’t ever forget where she came from.”
Then Mago touched my belly button . . . She said that my umbilical cord was like a ribbon that connected me to Mami. She said, “It doesn’t matter that there’s a distance btween us now. That cord is there forever.”
When Reyna Grande’s father leaves his wife and three children behind in a village in Mexico to make the dangerous trek across the border to the United States, he promises he will soon return from “El Otro Lado” (The Other Side) with enough money to build them a dream house where they can all live together. His promises become harder to believe as months turn into years. When he summons his wife to join him, Reyna and her siblings are deposited in the already overburdened household of their stern, unsmiling grandmother.
The three siblings are forced to look out for themselves; in childish games they find a way to forget the pain of abandonment and learn to solve very adult problems. When their mother at last returns, the reunion sets the stage for a dramatic new chapter in Reyna’s young life: her own journey to “El Otro Lado” to live with the man who has haunted her imagination for years, her long-absent father.
In this extraordinary memoir, award-winning writer Reyna Grande vividly brings to life her tumultuous early years, capturing all the confusion and contradictions of childhood, especially one spent torn between two parents and two countries. Elated when she feels the glow of her father’s love and approval, Reyna knows that at any moment he might turn angry or violent. Only in books and music and her rich imaginary life does she find solace, a momentary refuge from a world in which every place feels like “El Otro Lado.”
The Distance Between Us captures one girl’s passage from childhood to adolescence and beyond. A funny, heartbreaking, lyrical story, it reminds us that the joys and sorrows of childhood are always with us, invisible to the eye but imprinted on the heart, forever calling out to us of those places we first called home.
About the Author
Reyna Grande is an award-winning author, motivational speaker, and writing teacher. As a girl, she crossed the US–Mexico border to join her family in Los Angeles, a harrowing journey chronicled in The Distance Between Us, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist that has been adopted as the common read selection by over twenty schools and colleges and fourteen cities across the country. Her other books include the novels Across a Hundred Mountains, winner of a 2007 American Book Award, and Dancing with Butterflies, and The Distance Between Us, Young Reader’s Version. She lives in Woodland, CA with her husband and two children. Visit ReynaGrande.com.
“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
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.)
— Publishers Weekly: Starred Review
“A brutally honest book…akin to being the “Angela’s Ashes” of the modern Mexican immigrant experience.” — LA Times
“Reyna Grande is a fierce, smart, shimmering light of a writer with an important story to tell.” — Cheryl Strayed
“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
“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
“A timely and a vivid example of how poverty and immigration can destroy a family.” — The Daily Beast
“Grande consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence.” — Kirkus Reviews
“The poignant yet triumphant tale Grande tells of her childhood andeventual illegal immigration puts a face on issues that stir vehement debate.” — Booklist
“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.” — Dallas Morning News
“Powerful, harrowing.” — San Antonio Express News
“Eloquent, honest storytelling. This book would be fabulous required reading for college freshmen or, even better, for freshman members of Congress,” — Washington Independent Review of Books
“An important piece of America’s immigrant history.” — BookPage
“Accomplishes one of the great things books can do: make an abstract idea real.” — Christian Science Monitor
“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.” — Alegria Magazine
“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.” — NBC Latino
“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.” — The Hispanic Reader
“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.” — La Bloga
“Generous and humble. . . . Makes palpable a human dilemma and dares us to dismiss it.” — The California Report
“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?’” — Texas Observer
“Grande never flinches in describing her surroundings and feelings, while her resilience and ability to empathize allow her to look back with a compassion that makes this story one that everyone should read.” — School Library Journal
“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.” — Sandra Cisneros, author of The House of Mango Street
“A deeply personal coming-of-age story that extols the power of self-reliance and the love of books.” — Los Angeles Review of Books
One of the Best Adult Books 4 Teens 2012 — School Library Journal
One the 15 Best Books of 2012 — The Christian Science Monitor "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)
"Has the power to change minds and hearts." — Latina Style