Memoir of immigration, understanding commemorates program’s 10th year
By Carrie Click
Movies and news reports may tell the story of immigrants leaving their homeland in search of better lives. But how often is it possible to read a personal account of what it feels like to be a 9-year-old undocumented Mexican girl crossing the border into the United States?
Reyna Grande’s memoir, “The Distance Between Us,” allows readers to do just that. The book is Colorado Mountain College’s selection for its 10th annual Common Reader community reading program. The general public is invited to participate with staff,
faculty and students in this “group read,” and to attend free Common Reader presentations held at the college’s campuses.
“This year, we chose a story that addresses the bridge that needs to be developed between those from different cultural backgrounds,” said Jane Szucs, assistant dean of instruction at Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley at Glenwood Springs. “A lot of our students live with these differences every day. Our hope is that we begin to build a bridge so people of all cultures can be valued, and can be better understood within and outside of the classrooms at Colorado Mountain College.”
A highly regarded writer, Grande received an American Book Award for one of her novels and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Awards for the “The Distance Between Us.” Cheryl Strayed, author of “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,” calls Grande a “fierce, smart, shimmering light of a writer with an important story to tell,” and Booklist states that “The Distance Between Us” is “a touching and enormously personal memoir [that] puts a face on issues that stir vehement debate.”
‘Not among strangers’
Today, Grande is 41 and lives in California, where she teaches creative writing and has authored several books. A first-generation college graduate with a master’s degree in creative writing, she gives presentations across the U.S. and abroad about her books.
Grande, who says she’s “pretty shy and introverted,” has found that reaching people through her books offers a direct way to share her life experiences. So are book tours, where she is able to connect with people who have read her work.
“I will not be among strangers,” she said of her upcoming Common Reader tour.
From Oct. 17 to 24, she will visit Colorado Mountain College classrooms for sessions with students, and will hold a series of public presentations, which will include Q&As, readings and book signings.
Joining Grande will be Denver-based poet and performance artist Molina Speaks, who will bring his own perspective to the author’s words. Molina Speaks is planning to create what he refers to as a “live scribe” poem, based on each presentation’s interactions between Grande and her Common Reader audience.
Grande is especially looking forward to giving presentations at Colorado Mountain College.
“Community colleges are wonderful places to grow and learn,” she said. “Plus, they offer a nice transition from high school to university. They’re places where students can learn how to not just survive, but thrive.”
“The Distance Between Us” is available in English, Spanish and in a young adult version in both languages. Copies of the book are available at local libraries and bookstores, and at marmot.lib.overdrive.com.
Colorado Mountain College is also sponsoring a collegewide art and creative writing contest inspired by Grande’s memoir. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 1. More information is available at coloradomtn.edu/commonreader or 800-621-8559.
Common Reader book tour
Author Reyna Grande reads from “The Distance Between Us” – featuring special guest, poet Molina Speaks – at these Colorado Mountain College locations:
Oct. 17 – Edwards
Oct. 18 – Leadville – Doors open at 6 p.m. for art and creative writing show. The
Lake County High School Band plays from 6:15-7 p.m., and the author’s talk begins at 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 – Breckenridge
Oct. 20 – Steamboat Springs
Oct. 21 – Rifle
Oct. 24 – Aspen – Program begins at 10 a.m.
Oct. 24 – Spring Valley
All presentations are at 7 p.m., except for Aspen and Leadville. Call 800-621-8559 for more information about the Common Reader event at your local campus.