The Distance Between Us

The Distance Between Us

by Reyna Grande

Overview: Reyna Grande vividly brings to life her tumultuous early years in this “compelling . . . unvarnished, resonant” (BookPage) story of a childhood spent torn between two parents and two countries. As her parents make the dangerous trek across the Mexican border to “El Otro Lado” (The Other Side) in pursuit of the American dream, Reyna and her siblings are forced into the already overburdened household of their stern grandmother. When their mother at last returns, Reyna prepares for her own journey to “El Otro Lado” to live with the man who has haunted her imagination for years, her long-absent father.

Funny, heartbreaking, and lyrical, The Distance Between Us poignantly captures the confusion and contradictions of childhood, reminding us that the joys and sorrows we experience are imprinted on the heart forever, calling out to us of those places we first called home.

Gail Reid (03/23/15): Although there are many immigrant stories from many countries to choose from, The Distance Between Us stands out as one in which the ongoing separation of children from parents and the irreparable damage that results resonates so visibly. This isn't a rags-to-riches story but one in which the author's single-minded quest for an education succeeds in spite of many years of parental separation and relentless dysfunction. In this memoir, I thought the only weakness was that the reader was hammered repeatedly by the author's message. But if that is what is needed, then it is a small price to be heard.
Rating: ****

Debbie Weiss (07/29/14): The Distance Between Us is a memoir by Reyna Grande about her and her family's experiences through the years as they leave Mexico for a better life in the U.S. What we overlook when we address the immigration issue in our country is that the immigration experience often breaks up the families that are trying to search out a better life. First one parent exits the country and then a few years later they might return for the spouse --- and then a few years later they might return for the children who have been cared for by the grandparents or other relatives.

In a way this was an easy read because the author is an excellent writer and the story flows beautifully and the reader is anxious to know what happens next. However, it is actually a difficult read because we see, through a child's eyes, the trials and tribulations of growing up in a such a family. Reyna spent the majority of her youth without either parent, raised in poverty by her mean grandmother. She craved the love of an adult. Fortunately, she had the love of her brother and sister and like many generations of immigrants before her and from all countries around the world, she grows up to be a successful and productive American citizen. Excellent read.
Rating: ****+

Judy Stanton (05/17/14): When you are reading The Distance Between Us, you have to keep reminding yourself that this little Mexican girl from an impoverished, broken family telling her coming of age immigrant story is the author of the book. So, you know that, somehow, she makes it through hardships few of us can imagine to write this memoir. Reyna Grande is an excellent writer. We all know Mexicans want to come to America to earn more money and have a better life; but her book more deeply explores the breaking up of families, the abandonment of children, the impact of the transition to living in the US, the balance of losses against gains. Reyna opens her heart, telling her innermost feelings about her appearance, her feelings, her sense of self worth, her sexuality, and her deep-seated desire to know her parents and have them truly know her. The book is a reminder of the untapped potential of the poor and uneducated living in poverty all over the world. Well done, highly recorded.
Rating: *****

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