Reyna Granda s the author of the bestselling memoir, The Distance Between Us, where she writes about her life before and after illegally immigrating from Mexico to the United States. The much-anticipated sequel, A Dream Called Home, will be released in October. The Distance Between Us is also available as a young readers edition. Her books have been adopted as the common read selection by schools, colleges and cities across the country. Reyna has received an American Book Award, the El Premio Aztlán Literary Award, and the International Latino Book Award. In 2012, she was a finalist for the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Awards, and in 2015 she was honored with a Luis Leal Award for Distinction in Chicano/Latino Literature. The young reader’s version of The Distance Between Us received a 2017 Honor Book Award for the Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature and a 2016 Eureka! Honor Awards from the California Reading Association, and an International Literacy Association Children’s Book Award 2017. Reyna is a proud member of the Macondo Writer’s Workshop founded by Sandra Cisneros, where she has also served as faculty.
On October 27, she will be speaking at House of SpeakEasy’s Seriously Entertaining show, Dazed and Confused, alongside Heather Havrilesky, Raymond Villareal, and Tarfia Faizullah. We spoke to Reyna ahead of the show.
What is your earliest memory involving reading or writing?
When I was in a teenager struggling with learning English and navigating the American way of life, I read books that had nothing to do with my experiences, books with blonde haired and blue eye girls on the covers. Reading about an American life that could never be mine and characters who I could never be like, I felt inadequate, lost, and confused. “This is what I do not have. This is who I am not. This is who I will never be…” was the message I received from those books.
What is your favorite line from your current work?
“As with the moon, there is the face that we immigrants show to the world, but our second face is the one we keep hidden in darkness so that no one can see us weeping.” – A Dream Called Home
What is your favorite first line of a novel?
“My mother died at the moment I was born, and so for my whole life there was nothing standing between myself and eternity; at my back was always a bleak, black wind.”– Jamaica Kinkaid, The Autobiography of my Mother
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
My advice to aspiring writers is this: You need to learn the craft of writing, but you also need to learn the business of writing. It is crucial that you don’t just learn how to write a good book, but you also need to learn how to sell it, how to promote yourself to ensure a successful career as a writer. A book is a work of art, but once it has a price on it, it is also a product. So don’t get too hung up on the idea that you are an “artist” only. You must also learn to be a “salesperson.”
What writer past or present do you wish you could eat dinner with?
Renowned Mexican writer Juan Rulfo, who wrote about the harsh reality of Mexican poverty in a way that truly spoke to my heart. I would have a tequila with him as well!
What writer do you wish you could share with the world?
I would share all Latinx writers. We aren’t read enough.
What are you reading right now?
I am reading Jose Antonio Vargas’ memoir, Dear America: Notes from an Undocumented Citizen. Though we both write about our experiences as undocumented youth (and he as an undocumented adult as well), our writing styles are completely different! I am always fascinated by how an author writes about their lives, what they give you access to and how they open up. Some authors invite you into their living rooms only. I seem to invite readers into my bedroom as well.
What fictional character do you most closely identify with?
When I read Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews, I identified so much with the siblings. Their father died (mine immigrated and left us), their mother was more concerned about finding love than being a mother, like ours, they were left at the mercy of their evil grandmother, just like we were left to suffer at the hands of my Abuela Evila (yes, that was her real name), and all they had was each other, the four of them against the world. That was us—me and my three siblings against the world, trying to help each other survive our childhood.
If you could live inside a fictional world, which one would you choose?
Themescyra, the home of Wonder Woman
Are there any quotes you use to inspire you?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hallowed with knives? –Khalil Gibran, The Prophet