Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Distance Between Us - by Reyna Grande

As in Jeanette Winterson's Why be Happy when You Could be Normal the author of this memoir finds salvation from her dysfunctional family in books, reading, and, the library.

Reyna Grande was born in the town of Iguala, Mexico. She and her siblings are left in the care of her paternal grandmother when her parents cross the border to make their way on "el Otro Lado". Fascinated by stories that there is no poverty in the United States, and mistreated by her grandmother, Reyna longs to be reunited with her parents. When her mother finally returns it is with the news that the children's father has a new wife on "el Otro Lado" and they will be staying in Iguala. Years later, her father returns and illegally crosses the border with three of his four children, including Reyna. While she recognizes the one-bedroom apartment she now shares with her father, stepmother, brother and sister is the nicest place she has ever lived, and appreciates the educational opportunities she receives at her new school, she is at the same time disillusioned by life with her abusive, alcoholic father, whom she did not know at all before the crossing. Painfully shy, and embarrassed by her heavy accent, Reyna discovers solace in reading.
Over the last year, I had become addicted to reading, in part because I was not good at making friends. I shied away from kids because there was always something for which they could make fun of me: my ridiculous name, my height, my Payless tennis shoes, my thick accent, the unfashionable clothes I would wear...
Every Friday before heading home, I would stop at Arroyo Seco Library for books. The maximum I was allowed to borrow was ten, and I would read them all during the week.
As a young girl Reyna is drawn to the Sweet Valley High series, and V.C. Andrews books, but as a college student her mentor exposes her to Latino literature for the first time, and also gives her the first book she can keep, and Reyna realizes that she may also have what it takes to become a writer.

This is a wonderfully written, painfully honest, and inspirational book.

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