The Distance Between Us, Young Readers Edition
The Distance Between Us, Young Readers Edition

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Annotation: At the age of 8, Reyna Grande made the dangerous and illegal trek across the border from Mexico to the United States, and discovered that the American Dream is much more complicated than it seemed.
Genre: Biographies
Catalog Number: #147839
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Aladdin
Copyright Date: 2017
Edition Date: 2017
Pages: 324 p., 8 unnumbered p. of plates
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-481-46370-5 Perma-Bound: 0-605-99051-4
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-481-46370-6 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-99051-7
Dewey: 921
LCCN: 2016024959
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
Kirkus Reviews
This moving coming-of-age memoir by novelist Grande was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist in 2012. It has now been adapted for a younger audience.The grown-up Grande writes credibly in the voice of her younger self about growing up in Iguala de la Independencia in southern Mexico. The book starts as her mother is leaving for the United States to join her husband, who left two years before. Grande and her older siblings are left in their grandmother's care. Life in Iguala is one of grinding poverty and abusive treatment. Their parents have left with the dream of earning enough money to build a house back in Iguala; meanwhile the children have their own dream of being reunited with their parents and once more being a family. As Grande's parents' marriage collapses, their mother returns only to leave again and again. Eventually, their father takes them to the U.S. The author describes a life that, though different, is not easy on the other side of the border. They must live in fear of deportation, learn a new language, cower under their father's abusive treatment, and make do, always on the financial edge. Though redacted for young readers, this edition pulls no punches, and its frank honesty does not read "young" in any way. Read this along with Francisco Jiménez's biographical series, starting with The Circuit (1997). This heartrending and thoughtful memoir puts a human face on immigration's personal toll. (Memoir. 12-18)
School Library Journal
Gr 69 In this adaptation of her memoir, award-winning author Grande chronicles her life, from living in Guerrero, Mexico, as a child to attending college in the United States. Themes of poverty, survival, undocumented immigration, health concerns, and domestic violence are juxtaposed against her deep yearning to experience her parents' unconditional love and support and a hunger to excel academically. Throughout the book, she describes how she struggled to hold family relationships and her own identity together under the relentless strains of an immigrant experience. Strong sibling bonds provided support as Grande doggedly worked toward academic success and her dream of college and a place to find peace. This honest first-person account may be a mirror for many readers, allowing them to see reflections of their own strengths, possibilities, and hopes. For others, it offers a humanizing window into the Mexican American experience. VERDICT An important addition to any library serving middle grade students, given its compelling narrative and the gap it fills in the available memoir subgenre for this level. Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, IL
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Reyna's parents have moved to El Otro Lado (The Other Side) and have left her behind. In this young readers edition of her memoir, Grande writes about a difficult time in her childhood when her parents moved to the U.S. and she stayed behind in Iguala, Mexico, with her older siblings. Grande shares a timely story of a transnational family and the economic and emotional hardships she endured ch as not being adequately taken care of by her grandmother and being called an "orphan" by other children. While her parents have left in search of work, Reyna just wants her family back together and does not entirely understand why they had to leave in the first place. Readers will be captivated by Grande's beautiful and heart-wrenching story, from her detailed inner thoughts to the descriptions of the environment around her. Her longing to reconnect with her father, whom she refers to as the "man behind the glass," because she only knows him through an old framed photograph, is one readers will avidly follow. Grande's memoir offers an important account of the many ways immigration impacts children. Similar stories that touch on themes of immigration and family include the young-adult adaptation of Sonia Nazario's Enrique's Journey (2013) and Margarita Engle's Enchanted Air (2015).
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Starred Review ALA Booklist
Kirkus Reviews
School Library Journal
Word Count: 76,011
Reading Level: 5.0
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.0 / points: 11.0 / quiz: 184114 / grade: Middle Grades+
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.7 / points:19.0 / quiz:Q69350
Lexile: 780L
The Distance Between Us


"I won't be gone long."

"How long?" I wanted to know. I needed to know.

"Not too long," Mami replied, closing her suitcase. She was going to a place most parents never come back from, a place that had already taken my father, and was now taking my mother.

The United States.

My sister, Mago; my brother, Carlos; and I grabbed our bags of clothes and followed Mami out the door of the little house we'd been renting. Mami's brothers were packing our belongings for storage. Just as we were about to step into the sunlight, I caught a glimpse of Papi. My uncle was putting a photo of my father into a box. I ran to take the photo from my uncle.

"Why are you taking that?" Mami said as we headed down the dirt road to Papi's mother's house, where we would be staying while Mami was gone.

"He's my papi," I said, and I clutched the frame tight against my chest.

"Your grandmother has pictures of him at her house," Mami said. "You don't need to take it with you."

"But this is my papi!" I said. She didn't understand that this paper face behind a wall of glass was the only father I knew.

Papi had left for the United States two years before. He wanted to build us a house--a real house made of brick and concrete. Even though he was a bricklayer and could build a house with his own hands, he couldn't find work in Mexico because of the weak economy, so he'd left to go to the place everyone in my hometown calls El Otro Lado, "The Other Side." Three weeks earlier he'd called Mami to tell her he needed her help. "If we're both here making dollars, it will be faster to buy the materials for the house," he'd said, then they would come back to Mexico to build our house.

But in the meantime he was leaving us without a mother.

Mago (short for Magloria) took my bag of clothes so I could hold Papi's photo with both hands. The dirt road was full of rocks waiting to trip me, but that day I was extra careful because I carried my papi in my arms, and he could break easily.

My hometown of Iguala de la Independencia in the southern state of Guerrero is surrounded by mountains. My grandmother lived on the edge of the city, and as we walked to her house, I kept my eyes on the closest mountain. It was big and smooth, as if covered by green velvet. During the rainy season a circle of fog wrapped around its peak, like the white handkerchief people tie around their heads when they have headaches. This was why the locals had named it the Mountain That Has a Headache. Back then I didn't know what was on the other side, and Mami didn't either. She'd never been anywhere outside of Iguala. Until that day.

We didn't live far from Papi's mother, and as we turned the corner, her house came into view. Abuela Evila's house sat at the bottom of the hill. It was a small adobe house painted white with a terra-cotta tile roof. Bougainvillea climbed up on one side. The vine, thick with red flowers, made the house look as if it were bleeding.

"Listen to your grandmother," Mami said, startling me. All four of us had been quiet during our walk. She stopped and stood before us. "Behave yourselves. Don't give her any reason to get angry."

"She was born angry," Mago said under her breath.

Carlos and I giggled. Mami giggled too, but stopped. "Hush, Mago. Don't talk like that. Your abuela is doing us a favor by taking you in. Listen to her and always do as she says."

"But why do we have to stay with her?" Carlos asked. He'd be seven years old the following month. Mago was eight and a half years old, four years older than me.

"Why can't we stay with Abuelita Chinta?" Mago asked. I thought about Mami's mother. Her voice was soft like the cooing of the doves in the cages around her shack, and she smelled of almond oil and herbs. But as much as I loved my grandmother, I wanted my mother.

Mami sighed. "Your father wants you to stay with his mother. He thinks you'll be better off there--"


"Basta. He has made a decision, and we must do as he says," Mami said.

We continued walking. Mago, Carlos, and I slowed down, and soon Mami was walking by herself. I looked at the photo in my arms, at Papi's black wavy hair, full lips, wide nose, and dark brown eyes looking to the left. I wished he was looking at me, and not past me. I wished he could see me.

"Why are you taking her away?" I asked the Man Behind the Glass. As always, he didn't answer me.

"Señora, we're here!" Mami shouted from the gate of my grandmother's house. From across the street the neighbor's dog barked at us.

"Señora, it's me, Juana!" Mami yelled, louder this time. She didn't open the gate to go in because my grandmother didn't like Mami. And the truth was my abuela Evila didn't like us, either, so I didn't understand why Papi wanted us to stay there.

Finally Abuela Evila came out of the house. Her silver hair was up in a bun so tight that it pulled her scalp. She walked bent to the ground, as if she were carrying an invisible sack of corn. As she came to the gate, she dried her hands on her apron, stained with fresh red sauce.

"We're here," Mami said.

"I see," my grandmother replied. She didn't open the gate, and she didn't ask us to come in and cool ourselves under the shade of the lemon tree in the patio. The bright noon sun burned my scalp. I got closer to Mami and hid in her shadow.

"Thank you for taking care of my children, señora," Mami said. "Every week we'll be sending you money for their upkeep."

My grandmother looked at the three of us. I couldn't tell if she was angry. She was always frowning, no matter what kind of mood she was in. "And how long will they be staying?"

"For as long as necessary," Mami said. "Only God knows how long it's going to take to build the house Natalio wants."

"Natalio wants?" Abuela Evila asked, leaning against the gate. "Don't you want it too?"

Mami looked at us and put her arms around us. We leaned against her. Tears stung my eyes, and I felt as if I'd swallowed one of Carlos's marbles.

"Of course, señora. What woman wouldn't want a nice brick house? But not at the price we must pay to have it," Mami said.

"American dollars go a long way here," Abuela Evila said, pointing at the brick house built on the far side of her property. "My daughter has built herself a very nice house with the money she's made in El Otro Lado."

We turned to look at the house. It was the biggest one on the block, but my aunt didn't live in it. She hadn't returned from the U.S. even though she'd left long before Papi had. She had left my cousin Élida behind, and my grandmother had been taking care of her since.

"I'm not talking about the money," Mami said to my grandmother. Then she turned to us and bent to be at eye level with us. She took a deep breath and said, "I'll work as hard as I can. Every dollar I earn will go to you and the house. We'll be back before you know it."

"Why did Papi only send for you and not me?" Mago asked. "I want to see him too." As the oldest, she remembered Papi better than I did. She longed for him more than I did.

"I told you why. Your father only had enough money for me. And I'm going there to work. To help him with the house."

"We don't need a house. We need Papi," Mago said.

"We need you," Carlos said.

Mami ran her fingers through Mago's hair. "I'll be gone a year. I promise by then I'll come back and bring your father with me. Do you promise to take care of Carlos and Reyna for me, be their little mother?"

Mago looked at Carlos, then at me. I didn't know what my sister saw in my eyes that made her face soften. Did she see how afraid I was? Did she see that my heart was breaking at losing my mother? "Sí, Mami. I promise. But you'll keep your promise, right? You will come back?"

"Of course," Mami said. She opened her arms to us, and we fell into them.

"Don't go, Mami. Stay with us. Stay with me. Please," I pleaded, holding on to her.

She kissed the top of my head and pushed me toward the closed gate. "You need to get out of the sun before it gives you a headache."

Abuela Evila finally opened the gate to allow us inside, but we didn't move. We stood there holding our bags, and I wanted to throw Papi's photo against the ground so it shattered into pieces. I hated him for taking my mother from me just because he wanted a house and a piece of land to call his own.

"Don't go, Mami. Please!" I begged.

Mami gave us each a hug and kissed us good-bye. I pressed my cheek against her lips painted red with Avon lipstick.

Mago held me tightly as we watched Mami walk away. When she disappeared where the road curved, I tore my hand from my sister's and took off running, yelling for my mother. Through my tears I watched a taxicab take her away. I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to see Mago standing behind me.

"Come on, Nena," she said. There were no tears in her eyes, and as we walked back to my grandmother's house, I wondered if, when Mami had asked Mago to be our little mother, it had also meant she was not allowed to cry.

Excerpted from The Distance Between Us: A Memoir by Reyna Grande
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Award-winning author Reyna Grande shares her personal experience of crossing borders and cultures in this middle grade adaptation of her memoir, The Distance Between Us—“an important account of the many ways immigration impacts children” (Booklist, starred review).

When her parents make the dangerous and illegal trek across the Mexican border in pursuit of the American dream, Reyna and her siblings are forced to live with their stern grandmother, as they wait for their parents to build the foundation of a new life.

But when things don’t go quite as planned, Reyna finds herself preparing for her own journey to “El Otro Lado” to live with the man who has haunted her imagination for years: her long-absent father. Both funny and heartbreaking, The Distance Between Us sheds light on the immigrant experience beautifully capturing the struggle that Reyna and her siblings endured while trying to assimilate to a different culture, language, and family life in El Otro Lado (The Other Side).

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