Reyna Grande Rodriguez', "A Distance Between Us", was the focus of her book signing a couple of weeks ago. It was a program of Vecinos Unidos of South Pasadena. Reyna Grande was a young child when her parents immigrated to another country. Her father left when she was two and her mother less than three years later.
At the book signing she shared an idea that was newly defined for me.
Her experience was that of the immigrant child, not the child of immigrants. In Chicano/Latino literature there are a lot of volumes on the latter, not so many on the former.
There is an elegance in her writing and a painful sort of elegance in her experience. Bonds are changed by a thousand cuts.
She was very young when they left and like many other children of immigrants she wondered if they would come back for her? Would she would join them? How it long might it be until she would have answers to these questions?
When she was nine she joined them in the United States, but while they were living away from her they had changed. They had gone through their own transformation: parent and child had a different sort of distance between them.
And then once she arrived there was a distance between the children who looked like her, who had last names that were familiar, but who spoke a language foreign to her.
To quote Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, "When we write about something painful it changes. When we write about it and read it, it turns to art. No longer do we want to hide ourselves".
The distance between us diminishes.
Reyna was the keynote speaker at our 2013 Latino Recognition Ceremony this last Sunday. Her words given from the wisdom of experience may help many of our students learn to no longer hide themselves. That may be the most painful and rewarding experience of all.