Blog Archives

Kirkus Review of The Distance Between Us Young Readers Edition

So it begins, the reviews are starting to roll in for The Distance Between Us Young Readers Edition! Here is the one from Kirkus.

KIRKUS REVIEW

This moving coming-of-age memoir by novelist Grande was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist in 2012. It has now been adapted for a younger audience.

The grown-up Grande writes credibly in the voice of her younger self about growing up in Iguala de la Independencia in southern Mexico. The book starts as her mother is leaving for the United States to join her husband, who left two years before. Grande and her older siblings are left in their grandmother’s care. Life in Iguala is one of grinding poverty and abusive treatment. Their parents have left with the dream of earning enough money to build a house back in Iguala; meanwhile the children have their own dream of being reunited with their parents and once more being a family. As Grande’s parents’ marriage collapses, their mother returns only to leave again and again. Eventually, their father takes them to the U.S. The author describes a life that, though different, is not easy on the other side of the border. They must live in fear of deportation, learn a new language, cower under their father’s abusive treatment, and make do, always on the financial edge. Though redacted for young readers, this edition pulls no punches, and its frank honesty does not read “young” in any way. Read this along with Francisco Jiménez’s biographical series, starting with The Circuit (1997).

This heartrending and thoughtful memoir puts a human face on immigration’s personal toll.(Memoir. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 2016

Christmas in Iguala

December 2015

Thanks to the generosity of friends, family, and my awesome readers, I was able to make this Christmas season special for the kids in my hometown of Iguala, Guerrero!  Check out this photos of my 2nd annual Christmas Toy Giveaway.

 

10644417_10153920524989673_4050453108848744246_o (1)

 

980882_10153920553144673_670241384954708693_o

10258328_10153920526304673_6123026525570923423_o

885424_10153920557129673_5578333747250941729_o

Click here see entire photo album.

 

 


Writing in Tepoztlan, MX

January 2016

Thanks to the generosity of Sandra Cisneros and Under the Volcano, I was awarded the Macondo-UTV fellowship to attend the Under the Volcano writer’s conference in Tepoztlán, Morelos.  Though I have been going to the country of my birth through the years, this was the first time I have ever gone as a writer. In my previous trips, I’ve always gone as “Reyna the niece” or “Reyna the cousin”, since the purpose of my trips is to visit my relatives in Iguala, Guerrero.  Those visits to Iguala always, always break my heart. It pains me to see my family living under such harsh circumstances. Iguala is as poor as it was when I left as a child, but now, in addition to the poverty, it is also a place of violence. It is a place where 43 college students disappeared in 2014 and to this day have not been found. Iguala is a distribution center for the cartel. The mountains of Iguala are covered in poppy fields. When I go to Iguala my experience there is always bittersweet, the joy of visiting my relatives is accompanied by the pain of seeing them stuck in a place I was lucky enough to escape. Someone once told me I have “survivor’s guilt.” Perhaps it is true. I got out. They didn’t.

When I go to Iguala, I have to leave a part of myself behind in the U.S.—the writer. I never talk about my writing to anyone. My relatives don’t ask me much about it because they don’t live in a world with books and literature. My occupation—my passion—is a mystery to them. When I go to Iguala I never write. My inspiration is derailed by the overwhelming sorrow and helplessness I feel at seeing my people suffer. I also have to put my English aside. The moment I arrive everything I say must be in Spanish. No code-switching here.  No Spanglish! Because I rewire my brain to think and speak in Spanish, I believe that is another reason why the writing doesn’t come to me then. All my books have been written in English first, then I do the translation.

But this month, going to Tepoztlán changed the way I have experienced my native country. For the first time, I could be “Reyna the writer”. At Under the Volcano, I got to attend writing workshops and author readings in both English and Spanish. I got to hang out with writers from many parts of the world—England, Wales, Ireland, Canada, to name a few. I had stimulating discussions about the craft of writing, and I spent hours in the coffee shops in Tepoztlán working on my novel. To my delight, the majority of the attendees spoke both English and Spanish, and it was enjoyable for me to code-switch and use my Spanglish! For me, this trip to Mexico was the first time when I got to do the things I enjoy most about living in the U.S. but in my own native country! It was my chance to be the version of myself I love the most—my writer self.

Displaying IMG_20160121_162226667_HDR.jpgDisplaying IMG_20160121_162226667_HDR.jpgDisplaying IMG_20160121_162226667_HDR.jpg12552805_10153977984934673_7415289895673088477_nIMG_20160121_124049934IMG_20160120_180931345_HDR


Christmas Toys for Kids in Need: Iguala, MX

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

December 2015

This December, as I did a year ago, I’m going to Iguala to hold a special Christmas Toy Giveaway. Christmas is a special time of the year in many countries, and here in Iguala, where 70% of the population lives in poverty, children now more than ever need those special times full of joy and happiness.  Last year with help from family and friends, old and new, I was able to buy over 700 toys! This year I hope to buy just as many, or more if possible.

The Christmas Toy Giveaway is something the children have been looking forward to all year and I will not disappoint them!

The children in my hometown of Iguala, Guerrero in Southern Mexico are living in a place full of poverty, violence, and instability. Ever since September 2014, when 43 college students were forcibly disappeared in my hometown, things have gone from bad to worse. Since then, about 60 mass graves have been found around my hometown. Many more people have been killed or disappeared. Cartel gangs have been fighting for control of the area. Iguala is surrounded by poppy fields to supply the huge demand for heroin in the US. This is the place that the children in my hometown live in.

Despite this, life in Iguala continues, and children there do the best they can to not just survive, but to thrive. There’s so much more I wish I could do for my hometown, but for now, I’m happy to bring some smiles to the children and let them know we care.

Please help me make this Christmas a special joyful time for the children in Iguala, Guerrero! Together we can make a difference.

 

DONATE TODAY!

******************************************************************

Este mes de diciembre, como lo hice hace un año, voy a Iguala de celebrar la Navidad y hacer una entrega de juguetes. La Navidad es una época especial en muchos países, y aquí en Iguala, donde el 70% de la población vive en la pobreza, los niños ahora más que nunca necesitan esos momentos especiales llenos de alegría y felicidad. El año pasado, con la ayuda de familiares y amigos, viejos y nuevos, pude comprar más de 700 juguetes! Este año espero comprar lo mismo, o más si es posible. La entrega de juguetes es algo que los niños han estado esperando todo el año y no voy a defraudarlos!

Los niños en mi ciudad natal de Iguala, Guerrero, en el sur de México están viviendo en un lugar lleno de la pobreza, la violencia y la inestabilidad. Desde septiembre de 2014, cuando 43 estudiantes normalistas fueron desaparecidos por la fuerza en mi ciudad natal, las cosas han ido de mal en peor. Desde entonces, cerca de 60 fosas comunes se han encontrado alrededor de mi ciudad natal. Muchas más personas han muerto o desaparecido. Bandas del cártel han estado peleando por el control de la zona. Iguala está rodeado de campos de amapolas para abastecer la gran demanda de heroína en los EE.UU.. Este es el lugar en que los niños de mi ciudad natal viven. A pesar de esto, la vida en Iguala continúa, y los niños hacen lo mejor que pueden para no sólo sobrevivir, sino para prosperar.

Hay tanto más deseo que podía hacer por mi ciudad natal, pero por ahora, estoy feliz de traer algunas sonrisas a los niños y hacerles saber que no estan solos.

Por favor, ayúdame a hacer esta Navidad una época de alegría especial para los niños en Iguala, Guerrero! Juntos podemos hacer la diferencia.

 

HAY UNA DONACION!


Author Reyna Grande Visits Villanova University

Here is a wonderful article about my visit to Villanova, which will go down in history as one of my favorite schools to visit. A gorgeous university with a small student body. It made me want to be a student again so that I can go study there!

 

Author Reyna Grande visits Villanova for One Book One Villanova 2015

VILLANOVA >> The town of Iguala, Guerrero, about 2 ½ hours by bus from Mexico City, is thousands of miles away and a world apart from the Main Line, but it was brought vividly close last week through the words of a speaker at Villanova University.

Putting aside the politics of the day on immigration, author Reyna Grande offered a uniquely personal perspective on what drives some from her native country to risk so much – even the closest of family bonds – to follow a dream of a better life on El Otro Lado, “The Other Side,” of the border with the United States.

There were no questions about presidential candidates or walls on Sept. 10, when Grande, the author of One Book Villanova’s 2015 selection, “The Distance Between Us,” spoke to an overflow crowd of hundreds at the Connelly Center.

Instead, Grande talked candidly about the poverty of her childhood, the risky crossing that brought her, not yet 10, to America illegally, the opportunities that she eventually found here, and the forces that still pull her between her two homes.

The event was the first in the university’s annual St. Thomas of Villanova Celebration, honoring the Spanish saint who worked to “lift up the poor,” and culminating on Sept. 12 with Villanova’s annual Day of Service [See C9].

The 11th book to serve as a springboard for discussion across the university community, Grande’s 2012 memoir is “a difficult read,” Villanova’s president, Fr. Peter Donahue, said in greeting the gathering; not difficult to understand, he clarified, but “a tough story to take in.”

Grande was 2 in 1978 when her father left Iguala and his family to find work in Los Angeles. Mexico was in the grip of its worst recession in 50 years, the beginning of “the wave that has brought immigrants [to America] for four decades,” she explained.

Two years later, Grande’s mother followed, leaving her and older sister Mago and brother Carlos with their resentful paternal grandmother. Left largely to fend for themselves, it fell to Mago, at 8, to take on the role of their “little mother.”

Her husband having left her, their mother returned 2 ½ years later. Discontented and bitter, she again left her children – including new baby sister, Betty – repeatedly to follow a man or simply an escape.

There were small pleasures in the life of the town, as well as kindness from their maternal grandmother, a local healer, who next took them in, so that Grande can remember it, with the mountains that surround it, as a place of “broken beauty.”

The second chapter of her life began when her father returned in 1985 to bring the three oldest children back with him to the United States, paying to smuggle them across the border. Through the Reagan Administration’s amnesty program, the would all later gain citizenship.

For Grande, her father’s insistence on education as a route upward would pay off, as she became the first in her family to graduate from college. But is a mark of the struggles of assimilation that, more than 20 years later, she still holds that distinction. In those early years after her arrival here, her father’s strictness turned to violence with his alcoholism, leaving the family estranged again.

In a compelling portion of her talk, Grande described the “different city” that Iguala is today. If anything, children there grow amid even greater poverty and new violence. The town that was once known as the birthplace of Mexico’s national flag has now been called the Cuno de Asesinos, “The Birthplace of Killers,” after the disappearance and presumed murder of 43 college students who had planned a protest.

Grande said mass graves have been found near the city, and the fields around it are now used to grow poppies for the heroin trade under the control of a drug cartel. “There are crosses in the intersections and bullets in the buildings.”

Asked how she thinks her life would have been different if she had not left her town, it would be “what I just showed you,” she said: “violence, poverty and instability.”

Grande said she wrote “The Distance Between Us” because “I wanted to say something about the immigrant experience. When you hear about it, it’s often the numbers, the statistics,” not “about human beings.”

“I wanted it to be about my family’s journey,” how immigration too often “attacks the family unit,” she said. And, something new, “I wanted to write from the child’s perspective.”

“I think of my life as a before and after,” Grande said, adding that it is important to understand that “an immigrant’s journey doesn’t begin at the border. It begins much earlier.”

On a personal level, “My childhood in many ways was defined by my parents’ absence,” she told her audience. But in a way, by writing the book, she was forced to reflect on her earliest years, to really try to study her parents’ decisions, and – as a writer – see them as characters in her story.

“It helped me to answer my question why? What drove them to come to the United States and leave us behind?” Grande said, and perhaps help others to see “the price that immigrants pay in exchange for the American Dream.”

It is a story that will only become more important to comprehend, Chris Cotwicki, the Villanova senior who introduced Grande suggested, when he said, “The American story of the new millennium is the story of the Latino immigrant.”

One Book Villanova 2015 will include other programs and presentations related to “The Distance Between Us” in coming months.

For more information and to learn about events open to the public, check back athttp://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/onebook.html.


Casa del Migrante Visit

I have visited Casa del Migrante twice this summer to drop off the donations I received during my donation drive. I delivered a check for $3,500 and lots of clothes, shoes, etc. I also received a $1,000 donation worth of personal hygiene products from the store CURACAO. They were very generous. In fact, everyone has been extremely kind and supportive. Thank you to all of you who have been there for me in my effort to make a difference in the life of a migrant.

There are many sad stories I have heard at the shelter. It is hard not to absorb everyone’s sadness and frustration. 90% of the migrants at Casa del Migrante are deportees who are desperate to get back to their families here in the U.S.  It breaks my heart to see families separated due to deportation, due to a failed immigration system in the US and a corrupt government in their countries.

11840526_922148937832068_51988974_o

Here I am with lots of suitcases full of clothes and shoes. For some reason, the Mexican government makes it very difficult to bring donations across, So I have to be sneaky.

 

 

 

11873959_922159287831033_706407252_nHere I am with Father Pat as we take out the donations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11865444_922229307824031_2076434698_o

Migrants at the shelter  before dinner time. They receive two meals a day at the shelter.

 

11847361_922229291157366_926089047_o

In line for dinner. Casa del Migrante offers them shelter for up to a month, helps them get their paperwork (such as birth certificate), provides them with legal, spiritual, and counseling services.

If you would like to help, you can DONATE here to Casa del Migrante!

They are always in need of clothes, shoes, backpacks, and other items. You can contact them directly to coordinate a donation drop-off.


Fundraiser for Casa del Migrante

migrants

 

 

Thirty years ago last month, I crossed the border illegally through Tijuana. At nine years old, I found myself running through the darkness, trying to find a place to hide from “la migra.” I crossed the border for one reason–to be reunited with my father. I was lucky. I made it on my third attempt, and I began my new life in the U.S. with my father by my side. I went on to become the first in my family to graduate from college, and later an award-winning writer published by Simon & Schuster.

But I never forgot where I came from.

This is why I have launched a campaign to help migrants in need. For the next 45 days, I will be conducting a fundraiser on behalf of Casa Del Migrante, a migrant shelter in Tijuana.

Though the border wall has made it harder for migrants to cross the border through Tijuana, many migrants still arrive daily to this city just like I did 30 years ago. Many of these migrants arrive needing shelter, food, and a safe place free of abuse and peril.

Casa Del Migrante, a migrant shelter founded by Catholic priests, provides this safe haven for migrants by offering food, medical attention, psychological and spiritual support, legal services, and resources for job training and placement. In addition to the border crossers, many of the migrants arriving at Casa Del MIgrante are deportees from the United States. With almost 1,000 people being deported daily, shelters like Casa del Migrante are crucial. The facility provides assistance to these deportees who oftentimes are released in Tijuana with no money and no way to get back to their home. At Casa Del Migrante they receive three meals a day, a shower, clean clothing, and are allowed to stay at the center for up to 12 days.

Another group of migrants arriving at Casa Del Migrante are refugees from troubled areas of Mexico and Central America. These are people who are fleeing violence and persecution in their regions. They come with nothing but the clothes on their backs and the hope of obtaining humanitarian visas for entry into the United States.

Migrants in transit can find themselves in a vulnerable place, sometimes falling victim to kidnappings, extortions, rape, or worse. Casa Del Migrante is at the front line in the battle against abuses of migrants in transit.

Please help Casa del Migrante continue to serve the migrant population. Your donation today will put a roof over a migrant’s head, food in his belly, and hope in his heart.

 

CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

 

Thank you for making a difference in the life of a migrant!

 

Reyna Grande

 


Villanova University selects The Distance Between Us

2015-16 Villanova One Book

University community joins together to contemplate the human face of the immigration crisis

The Distance Between Us
VILLANOVA, Pa. – Villanova University has chosen The Distance Between Us: A Memoir by Reyna Grande as its 2015-16 One Book Villanova program selection. The Distance Between Us brings home the extreme risks and impossible choices those fleeing poverty and danger in Mexico are forced to accept – family separation, harrowing border crossings, perpetual fear of deportation – in hope of finding a better life, and reunification, in the United States.

“The Distance Between Us: A Memoir is a compelling coming of age story about a young Mexican girl whose family decides to search for a better life and a more secure future beyond the bounds of the poor rural community they call home,” said Teresa Nance, assistant vice president for Multicultural Affairs and One Book Villanova committee co-chair.  “The author helps us understand that when given bad choices by the circumstances of life, we make decisions and then must live with the consequences no matter how unexpected they might be.”

One Book Villanova is a distinctive educational program that engages all segments of the campus community – students, staff and faculty – in activities presented throughout the academic year which explore dominant themes presented in a selected book. Copies of The Distance Between Uswill be distributed to all incoming first year students to read over the summer. An on-campus book distribution event was also held on April 30.

“The One Book program is pleased to sponsor another great book selection on a timely topic – immigration,” said JJ Brown, Director of Student Development and One Book Villanova committee co-chair. “We believe The Distance Between Us will engage students and spur conversation campus-wide on this important topic.”

Discussion groups, public readings and special events will enliven and extend the campus community’s examination of The Distance Between Us throughout the 2015-16 academic year. A visit by the author to campus on September 10 as part of the University’s St. Thomas of Villanova celebration will include a presentation open to the public. Details of the event will be made available, as the date approaches, on the University’s One Book Villanova Website.

Other selections featured since the One Book Villanova program began in 2005 include The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseni, Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy Tyson, Left To Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji, The Unforgiving Minute by Craig Mullaney, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal, by Conor Grennan, Good Kings, Bad Kings, by Susan Nussbaum, and The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, by Wes Moore.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University’s six colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit www.villanova.edu.


Border Delegation/Delegacion de la Frontera

Last week, I returned from a six-day trip to Tucson, Arizona, where, through the UU College of Social Justice and Borderlinks.org, I participated in a delegation to the U.S-Mexico border. I wanted to visit the border in May because 30 years ago that month I crossed the border illegally as a nine-year-old child. I wanted to see it this time with the eyes of an adult.
We visited a co-op in Agua Prieta, Sonora where women have come together to learn skills and be able to sustain themselves. We visited a co-op of coffee growers Cafe Justo, whose goal is to hire locally and help keep families together. We also spoke to a border patrol agent and heard his side of the story. We walked the migrant trail where we left water jugs at the “water station” along the trail. I posted pictures of this walk on my Facebook Page and got over 8 MILLION views! i was touched to receive messages from people who told me the only reason they are still alive is because they found a water jug in the desert. On our last day, we got a chance to attend a court hearing of the case “Rodriguez v. Swartz”, a case about a 16-year-old Mexican boy who was shot across the fence 10 times by a border patrol agent. It was very heartwrenching to hear the arguments to dismiss the case. Border patrol agents very seldom, if ever, receive consequences for their actions.
But the one experience that most deeply touched me was visiting the migrant shelter and the migrant resource center in Sonora. I had the opportunity to speak to several migrants, and their stories still haunt me. When I crossed the border as a child, my father took care of things…of me. We were lucky to have never ended up at a shelter, penniless, lost, hopeless, and very far from home. We were lucky that we never had to deal with broken dreams and heartbreaking disappointment. When we succeeded in crossing the border, it was a combination of luck and perseverance, but all my life I have tried to honor it because I know that there are many who aren’t as lucky. At the migrant shelter, I kept telling myself, “This could have been me.”
As a result of the border delegation, where we pledged to work hard to educate people about the plight of the migrants and the complexities of the border, I am launching a fundraiser campaign on behalf of Casa del Migrante, a shelter that provides food, lodging, clothing, first aid, and counseling to migrants in the Tijuana border area. I hope I can count on your support. Please donate to my fundraiser and help me make a difference in the life of a migrant.

 

download_20150603_094700

 

1795612_10153432806754673_1636862886467111993_n

IMG_20150522_114502753

At the border wall

 

La semana pasada, regresé de un viaje de seis días a Tucson, Arizona, donde, a través del UU Colegio de Justicia Social y Borderlinks.org, participé en una delegación de la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México. Quería visitar la frontera en mayo debido que hace 30 años en este mes crucé la frontera de manera ilegal de nueve años de edad. Quería ver a la frontera esta vez con los ojos de una adulta.

Visitamos una cooperativa en Agua Prieta, Sonora, donde las mujeres se han unido para aprender habilidades y poder sostenerse a sí mismas. Visitamos una cooperativa de productores de café llamada Café Justo, cuyo objetivo es contratar a nivel local y ayudar a mantener a las familias unidas. También hablamos con un agente de la patrulla fronteriza (la migra) y escuchamos sobre sus experiencias. Caminamos el sendero migrante donde dejamos garrafones de agua en la “estación de agua” en el camino. He publicado fotos de este paseo en mi página de Facebook y conseguí más de 8 millones de visitas! Me conmovió recibir mensajes de gente que me dijo que la única razón que todavía están vivos es porque encontraron una garrafon de agua en el desierto. En nuestro último día, tuvimos la oportunidad de asistir a una audiencia en el tribunal del caso “Rodríguez v. Swartz”, un caso de un niño mexicano de 16 años de edad, quien fui disparado 10 veces a través del muro por un agente de la patrulla fronteriza. Fue muy desgarrador para mi escuchar los argumentos para desestimar el caso. Agentes de la Patrulla Fronteriza muy rara vez, o nunca, reciben consecuencias de sus actos. Pero la experiencia que más profundamente me conmovido fue haber visitado el refugio de migrantes y el centro de recursos de migrantes en Sonora.

Tuve la oportunidad de hablar con varios migrantes y sus historias todavía me conmueven. Cuando crucé la frontera cuando era niña, mi padre se hizo cargo de las cosas … de mí. Tuvimos la suerte de nunca haber terminó en un refugio, sin dinero, perdidos, sin esperanza, y muy lejos de casa. Tuvimos la suerte de que nunca tuvimos que lidiar con los sueños rotos y una decepción desgarradora. Cuando logramos cruzar la frontera, fue una combinación de suerte y perseverancia, pero toda mi vida he tratado de honrarlo, porque sé que hay muchos que no son tan afortunados. En el refugio de migrantes, me decía a mí misma: “Esto podría haber sido yo.”

Como resultado de la delegación de la frontera, donde nos comprometimos a trabajar duro para educar a la gente acerca de la difícil situación de los migrantes y de las complejidades de la frontera, estoy lanzando una campaña de recaudación de fondos en nombre de la Casa del Migrante, un albergue que ofrece comida, alojamiento , ropa, primeros auxilios, y consejeros a los migrantes en la zona fronteriza de Tijuana. Espero poder contar con su apoyo. Por favor, done a mi evento para recaudar fondos y ayudame a hacer una diferencia en la vida de un migrante.


Video of My Christmas Toy Giveaway/Video de La Entrega de Juguetes

I have finally finished a video of my trip to Iguala last December for my Christmas Toy Giveaway. This video is 15 minutes long and it captures the Christmas Season in Iguala, as well as the Toy Giveaway. Enjoy!

 

Por fin termine el video de mi viaje a Iguala el diciembre pasado para la entrega de juguetes en la navidad. Este video de 15 minutos capta la temporada naviden~a en Iguala y tambien la entrega de juguetes. Que lo disfrutan!

 

VIDEO


Follow Reyna

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinyoutube

Now Available in Paperback!

donate