Author Reyna Grande discusses her life at 10th annual City College Book Fair


Author Reyna Grande (right) signs copies of her book “The Distance Between Us: A Memoir” during the 10th annual San Diego City College International Book Fair on Oct. 13 in the Saville Theatre on campus. Official Facebook photo.

Destiny Ortiz

The San Diego City College International Book Fair had a big turnout in the Saville Theatre on Oct. 13, where author Reyna Grande was on hand to talk about her book “The Distance Between Us: A Memoir.”

Grande discussed the importance of college and wanted to make the conversation relevant for City College students. She was the first person in her family to earn a college degree and to this day is still the only one to graduate college.

For those who were curious about her citizenship status in the U.S., she was proud to announce she received her citizenship after she attained her green card due to Ronald Reagan’s Immigration Reform and Control Act enacted in 1986. Her whole family received citizenship due to that program. After receiving citizenship, she was able to go to school and focus on her career as a writer, like her inspiration and “literary hero” Sandra Cisneros.

“I was a beneficiary of the amnesty,” Grande said. “My dream of becoming a writer came true.”

Grande talked about how she and the rest of her family benefited from the bill that was passed and how relieved her family felt after becoming U.S. citizens, no longer having to worry about being forced back to the place she grew up in Iguala, Mexico.

Grande talked about what was going on in her hometown, which was popular for its railroad station. It became privatized and no longer provided service to Iguala. Grande also talked about Iguala’s nickname, “The Birthplace of Killers.”

Iguala is also known as the place where 43 college students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teacher’s College in Mexico went missing after attempting to use buses for a student protest, Grande explained.

“It is now considered a place where 43 college students just as yourselves can disappear,” Grande said.

She wrote her book about the place she grew up, as well as the place she moved to when she came to the United States. It is her own story about immigration and the challenges her and her family had to overcome.

In her memoir, she states her story is not any different from other children who immigrated here illegally and she says there is a constant struggle with immigration laws. The way Grande described it, people come to the U.S. to find better opportunities.

As a child, she had to deal with poverty so severe that there was no indoor plumbing, houses were made of material that was readily available and there were dirt floors, meaning houses were just about uninhabitable.

Children ran around with heads full of lice and stomachs filled with roundworms. She grew up with hardly ever having enough to eat and had to deal with the abuse of her grandmother on top of everything else she and her siblings went through. As Grande explained, this story is the story of many who have to live in a country struck with poverty.

“You have a responsibility to fight against the injustices you see,” Grande said.

Grande also talked about the relationship she had with her parents. The relationship with her mother was estranged because of what happened when she was younger and the times her mother left she and her siblings with their grandmother to care for them. Her father was abusive and very strict about school.

“Writing about the past was my way of moving on,” Grande said.

It’s not about regretting the past but taking pride in it, Grande explained.

“I thought it was interesting getting her point of view and how different it was from when I read it. I can’t imagine how difficult it was to write the book,” said San Diego City College student Azucena Perez about how she felt seeing Grande speak.

Perez was left with an important message from Grande.

“The past is what makes you stronger,” Perez said.

Grande is currently working on a historical fiction novel told from a male point of view. For more information on Reyna Grande, visit