The Distance Between Us
by Reyna Grande

Atria Books, 2012. ISBN 978-1-451-66177-4.
Reviewed by Khadijah A.
Posted on 10/03/2012
Review of the Month, October 2012

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Cultural/Gender Focus

Reyna Grande's memoir, The Distance Between Us, is often difficult to read simply because the story must have been a difficult one to tell. From the time that a four-year-old Reyna bids a tearful goodbye to her mother, who is journeying across the border to work illegally in America, to the time she says farewell to her dying father decades later, we are given a firsthand account of the immigration experience and its short- and long-term effects on the people who live it.

Grande is an expert storyteller, blending accounts from her childhood and youth with observations from her adult self which provide additional insight. One of my children once said that it is sometimes hard to read nonfiction simply because we can't change the story; what happened, happened, and there is no pretending it did not. I felt this keenly while reading this book. I kept wishing for a Cinderella moment for Grande and her siblings, wherein their pain and poverty, both emotional and physical, would be wiped away and something better would take its place. This, of course, never happened. That being said, Grande's story is peppered with little joys and small gifts which bring the story to life and remind us of the resilience that the human spirit so often displays.

Grande's descriptive powers are strong, but she also chooses to add black and white photographs throughout the book that add an even deeper dimension to her story. The text and the pictures complement each other, helping us to understand her experience on a deeper level. The Distance Between Us is the story of one girl in one family, yet it also provides a window into the larger experience of immigrants, one that is ongoing today.

Reyna Grande is the author of the critically-acclaimed novels Across A Hundred Mountains and Dancing with Butterflies. Born in Mexico in 1975, Grande was raised by her grandparents after her parents left her behind while they worked in the U.S. She came to the U.S. at the age of nine as an undocumented immigrant and went on to become the first person in her family to obtain a higher education. She is a sought-after speaker at middle/high schools, colleges and universities across the nation, and teaches creative writing workshops in Los Angeles. Visit her website.

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