The Distance Between Us: A Memoir by Reyna Grande – Review


No matter how many times I read this book, I will always need a box of tissues by my side. Having to read this book twice this year for class and for my own pleasure, I never imagined the emotional connection I would eventually have towards Reyna Grande, the author of The Distance Between Us: A Memoir.  


Published in August 28th, 2012 by Atria Books, The Distance Between Us: A Memoir has received the National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee for Autobiography/Memoir in 2012, and the Américas Award Honor Book of this year, 2017.

The Distance Between Us: A Memoir tells the story of Reyna Grande and her struggles with family separation, illegal immigration, and growing up in poverty. It tells shorts stories of her relationship with her siblings, her disconnection with her parents, her conflicts with adapting in a country known as “The Land of Dreams and Opportunity”, and her desire to obtain a college education.


Born in Mexico and raised by her grandparents after her parents left to find work in the U.S., Reyna and her siblings are left to fend for themselves in poverty while they await the return of their parents. Reyna has no memory of her father and paints him as a flawless man who will keep his promise to his children about coming home. At nine years old, Reyna and her siblings enters the United States as undocumented immigrants to live with their father. Filled with hope, she quickly realizes that life in America is far from perfect, as she struggles to learn English and adopt the new culture so unfamiliar to her. Her father isn’t the man she dreamed about all those years in Mexico. His big dreams for his children are what gets them across the border, but his alcoholism and rage undermine all his hard work and good intentions. It’s the dark side of Reyna’s childhood that motivates her to, one day, become successful in life to make her father proud.


“Wow,” was the word that came to my mind after finishing this book the first. The second time took me back to the first time I read it, remembering the powerful conclusion that made me simultaneously cry and compare my own childhood to Grande’s.

Reyna Grande starts her book off from the time she was two years old, where her father had already migrated to the United States. She continues to write the book in order of events that happened to her from the times in Mexico to growing up in the United States.

The book’s genre is non-fiction, but the way Grande writes makes me feel as if it were truly a fictional book. I believe I read somewhere that Grande had planned to make it a fiction book, but I was relieved to know that she decided to leave it as non-fiction.

Which it should be; the book reveals so many secrets and ugly truths that would be a hard time to digest for anyone.

The writing is spectacular, yet, so simple. The way Grande writes feels as if she is directly talking to the reader; like two friends at a local coffee shop discussing their childhood and dysfunctional family. I was able to connect with Grande through her writing and picture every situation she wrote. Everything flowed very fluently with Grande’s storytelling

In the book, Grande writes “there is something more powerful than La Llorona – a power that takes away parents not children. It is called the United States.”

I was in love with the novel the first time I read this line. I was hooked and read this book in two days because of it.

There were some points when I felt greatly emotional for Grande and her family, as they each had to go through their own suffering and despair while trying to maintain a family unit they had all wished for. It definitely makes me rethink my own childhood with the difficulties I had faced, but nothing can compared to what Grande and her siblings went through.

The book is not trying to make you feel bad about yourself, or make you pity Grande’s rough obstacles. The Distance Between Us: A Memoir was dedicated to Grande’s father, who was the main reason Grande is now where she is today. The ending focuses on the connection between the daughter and father relationship these two had for each other, which was Grande’s main goal from the beginning. Her dream was to be with the “Man Behind The Glass”, she dubs him as the first half of the book. Once as just a photo of her father she had hope to one day see again, to the real man who was not as she imagined, but still held a unbreakable love for.

The story ties everything together at the end of Grande’s journey to success. Grande is an amazing story teller and brave writer for revealing her unforgettable childhood.


The Distance Between Us: A Memoir demonstrates the struggles that many people face everyday; from abandonment to separation to alienation. Many different ethnics groups go through different situations to have a better life for their families, but Reyna Grande writes a very truthful book to help understand the the obstacles and conflicts one might face to achieve a better life. Nobody really knows what immigrant families go through and what they leave behind in their home countries, but Grande tells her story perfectly. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys non-fiction storytelling, a book about coming of age, and want to go deep into the life of an illegal immigrant striving to survive.



Rating: 5/5

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