Author of CRP selection tells new immigrant story

Reyna Grande gives a presentation in the Kirkhof Center.
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Reyna Grande gives a presentation in the Kirkhof Center.
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The author of this year's Community Reading Project selection said she wrote her memoir because she wanted to contribute to the country's conversation about immigration.

Reyna Grande, author of “The Distance Between Us,” spoke March 25 before a standing-room-only audience in the Kirkhof Center.

Grande said she is not one to attend rallies nor does she consider herself an activist. “I wanted people to understand that immigrants have families,” she said. “I wanted to tell the story about the immigrant child.”

Her book brings to the forefront issues of immigration and citizenship as it details her childhood spent torn between two parents and two countries. Grande’s Mexican parents leave their children behind to make the dangerous trek across the border in search of a better life. When Grande arrives in California at age 9, she adjusts to life as an undocumented immigrant and learns that life in America is far from perfect.

During her presentation, Grande discussed her difficult transition to life in Los Angeles. What was most difficult, she said, was not learning a new language or understanding a different culture, it was learning to live with her broken family.

“The family I longed for in America no longer existed,” she said. “Then I realized what immigration had done to my family.”

Published in 2012, “The Distance Between Us” was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Brian Jbara, director of Integrative Learning and Advising, introduced the 2014-2015 CRP selection following Grande’s lecture.

“Five Days at Memorial” is by Sheri Fink. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author will visit campus in 2015 to discuss her book, an unforgettable story about the investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

For more on CRP, visit www.gvsu.edu/read.