The Distance Between Us

ABOUT Reyna Grande

Reyna Grande
Reyna Grande is an author, speaker, and educator. Her first novel, Across a Hundred Mountains (Atria 2006), received a 2007 American Book Award and the 2006 El Premio Aztlán Literary Award. Her second novel, Dancing with Butterflies (2009) was the recipient of a 2010 International Latino  More...


When Reyna Grande’s father leaves his wife and three children behind in a village in Mexico to make the dangerous trek across the border to the United States, he promises he will soon return from “El Otro Lado” (The Other Side) with enough money to build them a dream house where they can all live together. His promises become harder to believe as months turn into years. When he summons his wife to join him, Reyna and her siblings are deposited in the already overburdened household of their stern, unsmiling grandmother.

The three siblings are forced to look out for themselves; in childish games they find a way to forget the pain of abandonment and learn to solve very adult problems. When their mother at last returns, the reunion sets the stage for a dramatic new chapter in Reyna’s young life: her own journey to “El Otro Lado” to live with the man who has haunted her imagination for years, her long-absent father.

In this extraordinary memoir, award-winning writer Reyna Grande vividly brings to life her tumultuous early years, capturing all the confusion and contradictions of childhood, especially one spent torn between two parents and two countries. Elated when she feels the glow of her father’s love and approval, Reyna knows that at any moment he might turn angry or violent. Only in books and music and her rich imaginary life does she find solace, a momentary refuge from a world in which every place feels like “El Otro Lado.”

The Distance Between Us captures one girl’s passage from childhood to adolescence and beyond. A funny, heartbreaking, lyrical story, it reminds us that the joys and sorrows of childhood are always with us, invisible to the eye but imprinted on the heart, forever calling out to us of those places we first called home.

When Reyna was two years old, her father left her in Mexico when he left for the U.S. to search for work. Two years later, her mother made her own journey north. It would be eight years when Reyna would finally come to the U.S. herself as an undocumented child immigrant, but by then her family had disintegrated and immigration had taken its toll. This experience left Reyna deeply scarred, but with a strong desire to succeed. She chose to tell the story of her childhood and young adulthood to encourage others to pursue their own dreams.

“…Grande captivates and inspires in her memoir…[She] deftly evokes the searing sense of heartache and confusion created by their parents’ departure…Tracing the complex and tattered relationships binding the family together, especially the bond she shared with her older sister, the author intimately probes her family’s history for clues to its disintegration. Recounting her story without self-pity, she gracefully chronicles the painful results of a family shattered by repeated separations and traumas.”—Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review

“…[Grande] consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define…and to complicate…A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.”—Kirkus Review


“…[A] touching and enormously personal memoir…Filled with stories of hunger and sorrow, Grande’s recollections focus on the tension of the Mexican/American border through the eyes of those left behind, bringing a whole new definition to what it means to grow up in a ‘broken home.’ The poignant yet triumphant tale she tells of her childhood and eventual illegal immigration puts a face on issues that stir vehement debate. Grande is affecting and sincere… the powerful emotions and important story will carry readers along.”—Booklist

"Reyna Grande's extraordinary journey towards the American dream will be an inspiration for anyone who has ever dreamed of a better life."—Ligiah Villalobos, writer/executive producer of Under the Same Moon/La Misma Luna


“In this poignant memoir about her childhood in Mexico, Reyna Grande skillfully depicts another side of the immigrant experience—the hardships and heartbreaks of the children who are left behind. Through her brutally honest firsthand account of growing up in Mexico without her parents, Grande sheds light on the often overlooked consequence of immigration—the disintegration of a family.”—Sonia Nazario, Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of Enrique's Journey