The Distance Between Us
Then Mago touched my belly button . . . She said that my umbilical cord was like a ribbon that connected me to Mami. She said, “It doesn’t matter that there’s a distance btween us now. That cord is there forever.”
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.
Reading Group Guide
The Distance Between Us
By Reyna Grande
About the Book
Reyna is two when her father leaves the family in Mexico and crosses the border into the United States, hoping to earn enough money to build a home in Mexico when he returns. When he sends for their mother, but leaves Reyna, Mago, and Carlos behind, the siblings suffer great hardship and poverty under the unforgiving hands of their father’s mother, Abuela Evila. Abandoned by both parents, the three endure but long for the return of their mother and a father for whom they have little memory. Their mother returns with a baby sister, Elizabeth, setting off a chain of on-again and off-again contact with her children. When their father returns after an eight-year absence and takes Reyna, Mago, and Carlos with him across the border, a new window of opportunity presents itself; however, Reyna, Mago, and Carlos must also deal with their father’s alcoholic rage. Recounted in astonishing detail, this memoir narrates one girl’s journey out of poverty and her infinite capacity to forgive and love.
Describe a time in which you felt abandoned or separated from a loved one. How did you resolve your feelings?
Questions for Discussion
1. Reyna is two years old when her father leaves Iguala for El Otro Lado (the other side). Why does he leave? Why do Reyna, her mother, an see more