In her new memoir, Reyna Grande, author of Dancing with Butterflies and Across a Hundred Mountains, tells the story of illegally immigrating to the U.S. from Mexico, and the difficulties being apart for long periods of time caused her family. The Los Angeles Times calls it “the “Angela’s Ashes” of the modern Mexican immigrant experience,”and praises Grande for avoiding sentimentality.
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Grande does a lot of public speaking, and her website includes a page about school visits.
Adult/High School–When Grande was two years old, her father left her family in Mexico to go to “El Otro Lado,” the United States, where he could find work and send money back home. Two years later, El Otro Lado took her mother also; and the author, her sister Mago and her brother Carlos were sent to their grandmother, Abuela Evila. Her abuse and neglect, along with grinding poverty brought near starvation, deprivation, and little love to the children. With no electricity, no running water, no source of healthy food, they lived in Cinderella fashion while their grandmother took the money from their father and bestowed it on her cousin. When news reached them that their parents had a new baby, Grande was certain that they were forgotten. Soon their mother returned with news of her divorce and told them that their father had a new American wife. When their father briefly returned, they begged to go back with him. He grudgingly agreed and they traveled to Los Angeles with the help of a Coyote, enrolled in school and began new lives striving to become American citizens. It wasn’t easy but Grande stuck with it to become the first college graduate in her family. She never flinches in describing her surroundings and feelings, while her resilience and ability to empathize allow her to look back with a compassion that makes this story one that everyone should read.–Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA