The One Community One Book* selection for 2014 is The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande.
Born in a small town in Guerrero, Mexico, Reyna Grande Rodriquez was two years old when her father left for the U.S. to find work. Her mother followed him north two years later, leaving Reyna (4) her older brother Carlos (7), and her older sister Mago (11) in the care of their paternal grandmother, Abuela Evila (her true name). Already caring for one grandchild who’s mother had left for America, Abuela Evila took in Reyna and her siblings out of a sense of duty, but the mistreatment she heaped on them was kept secret from her son. All the money he sent back for their care was used to buy treats for herself and her other granddaughter, while Reyna, Carlos and Mago suffered severe neglect. Mago tries to care for her brother and sister the best she can.
Four years later, Reyna’s mother Juana returns with a baby daughter, claiming her husband has abused her and left her for another woman. She brings Reyna, Carlos, and Mago to live with her at their maternal grandmother’s, but Juana was not the same caring mother who left years before. Soon Juana moved out, leaving the children with Abuelita Chinta, a kind and caring woman who, though living in extreme poverty, loved her grandchildren dearly.
In 1985, when Reyna was nine years old, her father returned to Mexico with a new wife. He borrowed money to pay a Coyote to help him bring his children back across the border. On their third try they were successful, and Reyna, Carlos and Mago begin life as undocumented immigrants in Los Angeles.
Filled with hope, Reyna soon realizes that life as an immigrant will be very hard. Her father isn’t the man she dreamed about for all those years in Mexico. His dreams for his children were what got them across the border, but his own failure to assimilate into an English speaking world and his alcoholic rage slowly undermine all his hard work and good intentions. Reyna finds solace from a violent home life at school and, with the help of one special teacher, through the Latina voices she beings to read. She turns to writing as a way to make sense of her own life. Her father is eventually able to get himself and his children green cards, and then citizenship. They graduate from High School, and Reyna goes on becomes the first member of her family to graduate from college with degrees in creative writing, film and video from UC Santa Cruz. She earned an MFA in creative writing at Antioch University. The Distance Between Us is her third book.
*The One Community One Book project, coordinated by the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights. The goal of the project is to encourage people in our community to read and discuss the selected book in order to develop a greater community awareness of human rights issues locally, nationally and internationally. For more information go to the One Community One Book Website here.
ICPL will be hosting a Book Discussion Saturday September 20th at 10:30am in Meeting Room E. All are welcome.