Reyna Grande, author of “The Distance Between Us” and “Dancing with Butterflies,” will talk about her life as an undocumented citizen at 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 7 at Edmonds Community College’s Black Box Theatre.
The Distance Between Us is Grande’s personal, heart-wrenching, and ultimately triumphant memoir about her journey from Mexico to the United States as an undocumented child immigrant, where she learned that the separation between a parent and child can be measured as much in emotional distance and abandonment as it can be in miles.
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 and the reality that millions of people are facing each day.
When 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, Grande and her siblings are deposited in the already over-burdened household of their stern, paternal 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 Grande’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. 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.
Grande finds solace from a violent home in books and writing, inspired by the Latina voices she reads. After an explosive altercation, Grande 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.
In this memoir, 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.