The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande
The Distance Between Us is a memoir following Reyna’s undocumented immigration experience from her childhood in Mexico to her adolescent and adulthood in the United States. Living in Iguala, Mexico (the same city where the 43 students disappeared in 2014) the Grande family suffered from widespread economic issues that eventually pushed their family and many like them north in desperate need of income. A combination of Mexico’s population boom, paired with a downturn in the economy, led to high unemployment rates, and the inability for the government to aid and educate its citizens. Reyna’s father first left when she was two, then her mother followed a few years later, leaving Reyna and her siblings to live with their strict, unloving grandparents in a one room house. Reyna’s mother eventually returns to Mexico after her parents separate, but she decides not to care for her children, creating painful and confusing feelings for Reyna and her siblings.
When Reyna is nine years old, her father returns to Mexico with a new girlfriend and decides to take his children with him across the border. Even with hiring coyotes to take them across the border, their first two attempts fail because the children were unable to walk fast enough due to heat and exhaustion. Finally making it across, the family settles in Los Angeles in a one-bedroom apartment. At school the kids struggle to learn English, fit in with their more assimilated peers, and desperately try to get good grades in order to please their father. Economic and societal pressures weigh on the family, and their father’s alcoholism and abuse worsens.
Once eighteen, Reyna moves away from her father who forbade her to go to college. She first went to Pasadena College, where she received encouragement and support from a professor who exposed her to Latino literature. She then transferred to UC Santa Cruz (she was accepted to UC Irvine right after high school but her father wouldn’t let her go), and went on to earn a Masters in Creative Writing from Antioch University. She is an award-winning author of several books and compilations, including a young readers edition of The Distance Between Us. Now living in Davis, Reyna speaks at events all over the United States, including at local schools. She has spoken at SRJC several times, and even visited Comstock Middle!
Some particularly stirring quotes relevant to school counselors:
“I wished I could understand what she [her teacher] was saying. I wished I didn’t have to sit here in a corner and feel like an outsider in my own classroom. I wished I weren’t being taught something kids learned in kindergarten.”
“Papi said we had broken the law by coming to the United States, but back then I didn't understand much about laws. All I could think of was why there would be a law that would prevent children from being with their father.”
“I brought you to this country to get an education and to take advantage of all the opportunities this country has to offer. The minute you walk through the door with anything less than A's, I'm sending you straight back…”
This review is courtesy of Megan Gardner, Sonoma State University, Graduate School of Counseling, Spring 2017.Posted 3/28/2017