Life experiences connects author, students


Jinwei Zhang

When not writing, Reyna Grande teaches creative writing at UCLA Extension.

Jinwei Zhang

Reyna Grande, an award-winning author, brought her new memoir “The Distance Between Us” to De Anza College on Feb. 24.

She shared her experiences of growing up in Mexico, how she first came to the U.S. as an illegal immigrant and how she became a writer.

Grande, born in Mexico, grew up without her parents since they left the family for the U.S. to pursue a better life.

Feeling abandoned and suffering from loneliness, Grande tried to stay positive.

During that time, the radio became her best friend.

“Listening to stories is a way to understand.” Grande said.

She finally understood her parents. She realized her parents didn’t abandon her but tried to protect the family by building a dream home where they could live together.

When Grande was nine, her

father came back to get her.

She made her first journey to the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant.

Grande was not ready to live in a new country. She found out her father was not the hero she imagined.

He was an alcoholic with financial problems. Her mom left her too. Her parents became strangers to her.

Not knowing a word of English when she arrived in the U.S. made her life even worse.

She was not able to make new friends and communicate with schoolteachers. Her life was falling apart.

Grande then met with Diana Savas, who in Grande’s memoir was the person who changed her life.

Savas was the person who encouraged Grande to go to UCSC to pursue her writing career.

She gave Grande confidence despite her poverty and sadness.

Grande said all the gain was worth the loss.

“Worth or not depends on different people and different choices they made,” she said.

Grande reached out to students with similar immigrant experiences.

Her memoir and talk were a reflection of the reality of an immigrant.