~Articles & Reviews~














List of Articles:

Reyna Grande, by Linda L. Miller (3-2006)

Crossing the Border: PCC Alumna Goes from Immigrant to Author, by Chantal Mullins (3-2006)

In First Person: Living the American Dream by Reyna Grande

Her Story: Immigration Novel Drew from Writer's Own Journey, by Daniel Olivas

Novel Tracks a Family Split by Immigration, by Yvette Benavides

Beyond the Melodrama by Rick Coca (8-16-06)

Perseverencia y Trabajo Como Llave del Triunfo por Marcos Nelson Suarez (07-30-06)

Grande Education by Nathan Solis (8-28-06)

Living the Writer's Life: Reyna Grande by Melinda Palacio (01-04-07)

Catalina Magazine's Top 5 Books by Latina Authors-Hispanic PR Wire (01-10-07)

Across a Hundred Mountains
By Scott Rappaport (Spring 2007)

"One Program" Book Focuses on Immigration, by Katie Warchut (May 22, 2007

New West Book Review, by Jenny Shank (08-16-07)

UC Santa Cruz alumna receives 2007 American Book Award for first novel by Scott Rappaport

UCSC alumna and author earns prestigious award by Isaiah Guzman - Santa Cruz Sentinel (02/26/2008)




































List of Reviews:

Publishers Weekly (4-03-06)

Kirkus Reviews (5-01-06)

El Paso Times (4-16-06)

Seattle Post-Intelligencer (06-20-06)























Publishers Weekly

Across a Hundred Mountains
Grande, Reyna (Author)

ISBN: 0743269578
Atria Books
Published 2006-06
Hardcover, $23.00 (272p)
Fiction | General

Reviewed 2006-04-03
starred review


* Grande, a 2003 PEN Emerging Voices Fellow, turns in a topical and heartbreaking border story for her debut. Juana, 11, loses her baby sister in a flood, and the death sets off a chain of tragic events: her money-strapped father heads north from their small Mexican town forel otro lado ; Juana's newborn baby brother is claimed by the town money lender; and Juana's mother descends into alcoholism and violence. At 14, Juana leaves to look for her father, from whom they have heard nothing. On her painstaking journey, she meets Adelina Vasquez, an American runaway working as a prostitute in Tijuana, who takes Juana in. The narrative switches off between young Juana's viewpoint, and that of Andelina, now 31 and a Los Angeles social worker, who returns to Mexico to find her own father and reunite with her mother. Grande's deft portraiture endows even the smallest characters with grace, and the two stories cross and re-cross in unexpected ways, driving toward a powerful conclusion.(June)

Copyright © 1997-2005 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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El Paso Times Living Sunday, April 16, 2006

Not so alien after all
Timely novel gives human face to immigration

As the public discourse over undocumented immigration becomes more heated and, at times, outright ugly -- particularly in the blogosphere -- attacks on such immigrants are often made in broad strokes and with gross generalizations.

This should not be a surprise, because it is easier to denigrate and reject a group of people if you dehumanize them and make them faceless.

But that's where talented writers come in: With skillful prose, they can focus on a small group of undocumented immigrants and make their struggles and humanity real to the reader so that it becomes difficult to dismiss their plight with a bumper-sticker slogan or the waving of a flag.

Two years ago, Luis Alberto Urrea did exactly that with "The Devil's Highway" (Little, Brown), in which he brilliantly chronicled the plight of 26 Mexican men who, in 2001, crossed the border into an area of the Arizona desert known as the Devil's Highway. Only 12 made it safely across. The book received wide acclaim and was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction.

Now comes a fictionalized story of undocumented immigration in Reyna Grande's debut novel, "Across a Hundred Mountains" (Atria Books, $23). Grande tells her story in evocative language that never falls into pathos.

In the nonlinear narrative, chapters alternate between her two female protagonists, Juana Garcia and Adelina Vasquez. First, we have Juana, a young girl who lives in a small Mexican village in extreme poverty. When a flood leads to yet another death in her family -- a death that Juana feels responsible for -- Juana's father believes that he must earn more money to house his family in safer quarters. He believes that there are abundant opportunities "en el otro lado," based on a letter from a friend: "Apá's friend wrote about riches unheard of, streets that never end, and buildings that nearly reach the sky. He wrote that there's so much money to be made, and so much food to eat, that people there don't know what hunger is."

With such dreams, Juana's father decides to leave his family and enter the United States by relying on a fast-talking coyote. He makes numerous promises to send money once he's found employment. But Juana and her mother hear nothing for years, leading to further poverty. Worse yet, Juana's father had to borrow money from Don Elias to pay the coyote's exorbitant fee. Once Juana's father embarks on his journey, Don Elias swoops down on Juana's beautiful mother with ideas as to how repayment can be made

A few years later -- after no word from her father, and after her abused mother has fallen into alcoholism -- Juana decides to leave home to find her father.

Juana eventually crosses paths with a young prostitute, Adelina, in Tijuana. They make plans to join forces and sneak into the United States together. For Juana, there's a chance to find her long-lost father. For Adelina, there's hope to cast off the shackles of her abusive boyfriend-pimp. This friendship is perhaps one of the most affecting elements of Grande's narrative. And, after a twist reminiscent of Dickens, these brave young women end up insinuating themselves into each other's life more than one could imagine.

The publisher tells us that Grande was born in Guerrero, Mexico, in 1975, and that she entered the United States as an undocumented immigrant at age 9. Despite such obstacles, Grande earned her bachelors of art degree in creative writing from the University of California at Santa Cruz and was a 2003 PEN USA Emerging Voices Fellow. In other words, Grande is living the American dream and has offered a striking and moving story about people who have traveled the same dangerous journey that she did.

"Across a Hundred Mountains" is a beautifully rendered novel that maintains its power throughout because Reyna Grande keeps control over her language and does not feel a need to trumpet emotionally volatile scenes of alcohol and drug abuse, rape, poverty and infant mortality. This is a breathtaking debut.

Daniel A. Olivas is the author of four books, including "Devil Talk: Stories" (Bilingual Press, 2004), and a children's book, "Benjamin and the Word / Benjamin y la palabra" (Arte Publico Press, 2005). His Web site is www.danielolivas.com , and he may be reached at olivasdan@aol.com .

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Kirkus Reviews

May 1, 2006


LENGTH: 349 words



An affecting debut on Mexican poverty, illegal immigration and cosmic injustice.

Split between the narratives of a ten-year-old girl and a woman in her 30s, the novel illustrates the travails of immigration -- the often hard fate of those left behind, the danger of crossing the United States border and the splintered sense of home experienced by those who have made it to El Otro Lado, the other side. The cycle of tragedy for young Juana begins with a flood: Unable to keep the water out of their cardboard shack, Lupe goes for help, instructing daughter Juana to stay on the table with baby Anita. When Lupe and her husband Miguel return, they find Juana asleep and Anita dead underwater.

To pay for the cost of their baby's burial, Miguel decides to go North for work before the interest on the loan triples the original debt. Weeks pass and Lupe sinks into despair they haven't heard from Miguel, and the town assumes that he's abandoned her, an all-too-common occurrence. Worse yet, their creditor Don Elias is demanding payment from Lupe, and gives her two options -- she becomes his whore, or he has her jailed. Juana stands by helplessly, praying to the Virgin to bring her father back, watching her mother give birth to a baby boy that Don Elias kidnaps, selling quesadillas at the train station to feed the now raving Lupe. Poor Juana's story gets much worse before it gets better. Adelina's tale is equally bleak. Living in Los Angeles and working as a social worker at a woman's shelter, she is searching for the father she hasn't seen in years. Her singular purpose has kept her away from life and love until she finds a coyote who recognizes the description she gives of her father, a man who died crossing the border. Now with her father's ashes, she is going to bring him home to Mexico . By the (not-so-surprising) end, Juana and Adelina achieve the kind of hard-won justice that occurs only in fiction.

A politically well-timed tale of the journey to El Norte.

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March 2006

By Linda L. Miller, Collection Development, Brodart Company


¡Hola! Me llamo Reyna Grande. ¿Comprendes lo que digo?

If you can't read Spanish, you have no idea what these first two sentences say. Thus, you might understand how this month's first-time novelist Reyna Grande felt when she first came to the United States from Mexico as an eight-year-old child unable to speak any English. It might also help you appreciate just how far this young woman has come.

By and far, the language problem was the biggest hurtle she had to face, but like everything before and since, she tackled it with determination and with her father's admonishment that she “take advantage of everything this country had to offer-especially an education,” resonating in her ears. In fact, once they came to this country, Reyna said he became a bit of a tyrant regarding education. “He used to threaten to send us back to Mexico if we didn't study hard. So, for the most part, we were straight ‘A' students.”

Life in Mexico was not easy for Reyna, born in Guerrero in 1975. Her family was very poor. That's why, when she was five, her parents left her and her siblings in the care of their grandmother to go to the United States in search of work and establish a home for themselves and their children there. “It is very common for parents to leave their children behind and go to the United States ,” Reyna said. Life for those left behind is tough, she explained. That is the premise of Reyna's first novel, Across a Hundred Mountains , which tells the story of Juana Garcia, whose father disappeared 19 years earlier after leaving the family to go to the United States.

Like Juana Garcia, Reyna and her siblings lived in deplorable conditions “in a little shack made of bamboo sticks and tar-soaked cardboard, which is exactly like the shack where Juana lives,” she shared. “One of my most memorable experiences is dealing with the floods every rainy season. Our shack was close to the canal, and whenever it rained really hard, the canal overflowed. I remember waking up one night to find our shack filled with water!” She also shared the anguish of watching her grandmother die days after being stung by a scorpion that fell from the ceiling of their shack.

Finally arriving in the United States , Reyna was enrolled in 5 th grade. “I was put in a little corner, along with other non-English speakers, and was taught by the teacher's assistant, not the teacher herself,” Reyna said. “I remember looking at the 20-some kids in the classroom, who were being taught by the teacher, and I felt sad to be excluded, sitting there in a little corner, not being able to communicate with my own teacher. I'm not sure if this situation has improved much. I know that some schools offer ESL classes so that non-English speakers can learn the language at their own pace, instead of being put in an English-only classroom. Other schools, however, don't have that, so non-English speakers are put in a classroom where only English is spoken, and it becomes a sink-or-swim situation for them,” she concluded.

Reyna graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in Highland Park ( Los Angeles ) in 1993. That was followed by Pasadena City College from 1994-1996. She then transferred to the University of California , Santa Cruz , graduating in 1999 with a B.A. in Creative Writing and Film & Video. She also attended National University and received her teaching credential in 2003. She then taught ESL to 6 th -8 th graders until 2004 when she switched over to teaching adult ESL, which she enjoys.

In 2003, Reyna also participated in the Emerging Voices Rosenthal Fellowship program offered by Pen Center USA . She met her agent, Jenoyne Adams, who sent Reyna's manuscript for Across a Hundred Mountains to an editor. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

“It is very important to me to share the experiences of those left behind,” Reyna said. “Some Americans think that Mexicans only come here to do harm. What I like to do is to show them that there are many people who come here and do good things. Here I am, from an illegal immigrant, to a published author. There must be a lot of success stories like that of illegal immigrants who have come here and contributed to society,” she said.

Another driving force behind her success is her four-year-old son, Nathaniel. While her son is not old enough to understand the advantages he has that his mother did not, Reyna says, “Being poor as a child makes me want to give my son everything I didn't have. When I feed him, clothe him, buy him presents for his birthday or for Christmas, I feel good, knowing that my child will have all the things I once longed for as a child.”

Reyna is already at work on her second novel which will explore the world of Folklorico: Mexican music and dancing. She invites readers to visit her web site at www.reynagrande.com.

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Pasadena City College, The Courier

Feature — March 2, 2006

Crossing the Border: PCC Alumna Goes From Immigrant to Author

Chantal Mullins, Feature Editor

Reyna Grande came to this country illegally when she was 9 years old, crossing the border with her family looking for a way to escape the poverty of their Mexican household. Today she is an author waiting for her first book to hit the bookstores.

"Going from being an illegal immigrant to a published author — I'm proud I accomplished that," Grande said about having her book, "Across a Hundred Mountains." It is clear that her journey has not been an easy one; what better way to express it than in a book?

"My parents came [to the United States] first to work," she said. "We were really poor in Mexico, and they wanted to give us a better life." It wasn't until five years later that her father brought her and her four brothers and sisters to the United States.

Grande vividly remembers her journey across the border. "We crossed the border illegally, so we had to run across it," she said. "We got caught twice and had to cross at night. I remember running away from the helicopter that was circling above." Grande also recalls seeing a dead man under a bush as she crossed the border. "I can still picture that," she said.

Once here, Grande remembers how big Los Angeles was. "There were a lot of cars on the freeway and tall palm trees," she said with a trace of awe. She also remembers how different the way of life was here. "I remember seeing poor people and thinking 'no matter how poor they are they aren't as poor as they are in Mexico'," she said.

Coming to the United States changed Grande's life drastically — only not in the way one would think. She had parents after coming here, which was something she was not used to.

"My siblings and I grew up with family members, but not our parents. Since we weren't theirs they didn't make a big effort to care for us," she said. Grande and her siblings had a hard time adjusting to their parents and their rules. "A big gap was created between us and our parents," she said. "We never really closed that gap."

Now Grande makes it a point to go back to her hometown of Guerrero, Mexico and visit family members who still live there. "I get nostalgic for Mexico," she said wistfully. When she goes back, she can't believe it's where she came from. "It makes her appreciate what she has here.

Here, for a while, was PCC. Following her love for drawing and painting, she took classes from 1994 until 1996 as an art major.

It wasn't until the summer of 1994 that she began dreaming of becoming a writer. These dreams came into focus with the help of Grande's English instructor, Diane Savas. "She told me I had real potential as a writer," Grande said. "I had always liked writing poems and short stories, but now I thought that I could actually do it."

Grande honed her writing skills as a staff writer for the Courier for one semester. She enjoyed writing feature stories and didn't like writing about news. "I like writing about people and the things they do and how they're contributing," she said. "I like writing about [people's] successes."

It was through the Courier that Grande's most memorable experience at PCC occurred.

"I wrote an article on past PCC presidents titled 'PCC in the Making,' and it was a whole page," she said gleefully. "I got a letter from the current PCC president and it just made my day."

After PCC, Grande journeyed to UC Santa Cruz as a creative writing and film and video major. She graduated in 1999.

Grande chose UC Santa Cruz at Savas's urging. "She thought it would be the best place for me to be," Grande said. "She especially wanted me to get away from my abusive father — and it did put distance between me and him. She felt I would grow as a person there, and I did."

Writing has been a part of Grande's life since she was in junior high. "I wrote short stories and cheesy love poems," she said with a laugh. "I always liked writing, but I never saw myself as being a writer until Diane [Savas] said I was a great writer."

Grande proved her talent after winning $100 in a writing contest. She submitted an autobiographical story to an organization Savas was familiar with and was surprised when she won. "After that, Diane [Savas] kept giving me books to read by Latina writers," Grande said. "She was trying to show me that if those women could be writers, then so could I. From that point on, I felt I was a writer."

A tiny flicker of an idea soon ignited into a wildfire for Grande. While she was in Santa Cruz, Grande started thinking about writing a book about her experience of living in Mexico without parents. "It was an issue I wanted people to know about," she said.

Grande's book was considered for publication after an agent came to spea to participants in a program called PEN Center USA Emerging Voices. She was one of eight to be accepted into the program. Grande spoke to the agent about her book, and her idea was met with approval.

After finding out her book was going to be published, Grande couldn't believe it. "I'll believe it when I see it," she said. I feel very proud and want to [continue to] go above and beyond what I can do."

Grande felt relieved after the completion of her book. "The hardest thing was getting to the end," she said. "Writers sometimes get in a trap. I kept editing and rewriting the same 100 pages, but once I broke free of those pages and started writing more, I was relieved."

When asked how it felt to see her name in print, Grande laughed. "When got my book cover design, I actually felt really good," she said. "I have always had issues with my name. I'm really short and my name is 'Grande' — I was always embarrassed. I'm torn between loving and hating my name. I felt proud to see it [in print]."

Grande dedicated her book to her 4-year-old son. "I had to divide my time between him and the book and I felt guilty [that] I couldn't give him 100 percent of my attention," she said. "I also dedicated it to all the people who have died trying to cross the border."

Grande wants those who read her book to get an insight into the other issues that pertain to the immigrant experience.

"It's not only about what they go through in this country — no health care, bad jobs and hard times," she said. "I want people to think about the family that gets separated when members come here and the children that are left behind and what they're going through."

Grande is currently working on a second book about five female folklorico dancers and their problems in life. Grande used to dance folklorico and loved it. "I feel it's an important aspect of Mexican culture — it's almost a little subculture of its own," she said.

Grande's book, "Across a Hundred Mountains" will hit stores June 20.

For more information, visit her website, www.reynagrande.com.

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This article appeared in California Authors.com

In First Person: Living the American Dream

By Reyna Grande

As the debate on illegal immigration continues, I've been thinking more and more about my own journey from Mexico to the United States twenty-one years ago. My parents left me in Mexico for five years while they worked in the United States. Being left behind scarred me for life. This is why, in 1998, I began to write about my childhood. Growing up in the U.S., I never read any books that dealt with the experiences of children who were left behind, even though it is common for parents to leave their children when they come to America.

This June Atria Books is releasing my first novel, Across a Hundred Mountains . It is the story of a young girl in Mexico whose father leaves for the U.S. and is never heard from again. This story is fictional, but it is based on some of my experiences. The girl's fear of never seeing her father again is real. Her fear of being forgotten is real. Her struggle to maintain her hope alive is real. I lived it.

In 1979, my father became one of the many illegal immigrants entering the United States. He left my family — my Mom, my sister Magloria, my brother Carlos and me — behind in Guerrero, Mexico. We lived in a little shack made of bamboo sticks and cardboard. Our bellies were full of parasites; our hair was infested with lice. We went barefoot and had no money for school. We had no running water. We bathed in a canal littered with trash, with horse dung floating by. We went around gathering cow dung to burn in order to keep warm and scare the mosquitoes away. My father left because he had two choices: 1) Stay in Mexico and see his children suffer, with no possibility of a better future or 2) Leave for the United States and give us a chance to succeed in life. By choosing to leave my father gave me the greatest gift a parent can give a child—the possibility to succeed.

A year after he left, my father sent for my mother. He returned home five years later and brought me and my siblings to the United States. I was almost ten. On our first attempt to cross the border from Tijuana I became sick and suffered from fever most of the way. My father carried me on his back, up until we were caught. I don't remember if it was the first attempt or the second attempt when we found a dead body hidden under the bushes. There were flies all over the dead man, and he had a big bump on his forehead. My father said that sometimes coyotes kill their clients to rob them.

The second time we got caught again. I just remember waiting at the immigration office while my dad was been interrogated. The immigration official gave me a soda. By this time my father was getting frustrated. He wanted to take us all back to Guerrero and forget the whole thing. He said we would try one more time. The third time we tried to cross the border at night. I remember the darkness, holding my sister's hand and being afraid of getting lost in all that blackness. I remember the helicopter flying above us, and running, trying to find a place to hide. The coyote made me leave my sweater and my socks behind because they were a light color and could be seen in the darkness. I remember running across a highway, my father picking me up and helping me over a fence. These are all flashes of images. All I know is that on the third time we crossed we made it.

Life in the United States was not easy. I was enrolled in the fifth grade in Aldama Elementary in Highland Park, CA, although in Mexico I was just finishing third grade. I was put in a corner to be taught by the teacher's assistant. My teacher didn't speak Spanish, so for the rest of the year I could not communicate with her. My father taught us to value education. He drilled into our heads that we were lucky to be living in America. He often threatened to send us back to Mexico if we didn't learn English and get good grades. He talked about the importance of having a stable job, a retirement account, owning a house.

Now I am thirty, living the American dream. By leaving Mexico, my father changed the course of my life completely. Because I live in the United States, I am a college graduate and a teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District. I have my own house. I have a car. Best of all, I am a published author. Only in America can a person go from being an illegal immigrant to a published author.

I teach English as a Second Language to adults, most of whom are illegal immigrants. I see my parents in them. Some of my students have children in other countries, and they struggle daily to find a way to be reunited with their sons and daughters. In my classroom I see hardworking people who came to this country to flee miserable poverty at home. I don't see criminals. I see human beings who want what's best for themselves and their children.

People in the United States are divided about what to do about illegal immigration. Even I find myself confused as well. There are many sides to the issue, but the one thing I am certain of is that both the Senate and the House of Representatives are not addressing the root of the immigration problem—poverty. The fact is that as long as there's a choice between making $5 a day or $5 an hour, people are going to keep coming to the U.S. Proposals to increase foreign aid should be a crucial component of the immigration debate, yet, sadly, that issue has been neglected. Lawmakers make no mention of how the U.S. can assist other countries to better their economies.

People who are opposed to immigration keep saying that illegal immigrants should go back to where they came from. Go back to what?

Extreme poverty? Under education? Over-population? Disease? Civil Disorder? Environmental degradation?

Up to now, the U.S. has spent billions of dollars on the war in Iraq. The Congressional Budget Office reports that the Pentagon spends $6 billion a month on the war. That money could have gone to improve education, health services, and Social Security here in the U.S., and it also could have helped impoverished countries improve their economic opportunities, health care, and education as well.

The House of Representatives responds to the plight of disadvantaged countries with a proposal to erect a wall and keep those people out. In short, lawmakers want the United States to turn a blind eye to all the poverty that exists south of the border-- as if by building a wall Americans can ignore the plight of those who have nothing.

Immigration is a complicated issue, but this is what it boils down to: When faced with watching their children suffer or giving them a chance at a better future, people will do whatever it takes to come to the United States. If my father hadn't come here, I don't know what my life would have been like, and honestly, I don't even want to think about it.

The writer: Reyna Grande is the author of the forthcoming novel, Across a Hundred Mountains (June 2006). “ Across a Hundred Mountains is a beautifully rendered novel that maintains its power throughout because Reyna Grande keeps control over her language and does not feel a need to trumpet emotionally volatile scenes of alcohol and drug abuse, rape, poverty and infant mortality,” Daniel Olivas wrote in the El Paso Times. “This is a breathtaking debut.” She attended Pasadena City College for two years before transferring to the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she received her B.A. in Creative Writing and Film & Video in 1999. She lives in Los Angeles.

Online: Visit the author at www.reynagrande.com .

Buy the book.

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Her story
Immigration novel drew from writer's own journey

Daniel A. Olivas / Guest Columnist
June 18, 2006
Creative-writing professors often admonish their students to "write what you know." Apparently Reyna Grande took this advice to heart with her debut novel, "Across a Hundred Mountains" (Atria Books, $23).

Grande eloquently and with great power puts a human face on undocumented immigration with Juana, a poor Mexican girl who leaves her small town to find her father in the United States.

"I used many of my own experiences to give shape to Juana's life," Grande said.

For example, when she was just a few years old, her father and later her mother left for the United States to earn money to give their children a better life. In the novel, Juana's father leaves when she is 12.

The crushing poverty Grande's family endured in Mexico also made its way into the novel: "When my parents left, my siblings and I lived in a little shack made of bamboo sticks and tar-soaked cardboard, which is exactly like the shack where Juana lives." The nearby canal flooded their shack during the rainy season; Grande made that a pivotal plot element in Juana's story.

Grande's journey to the United States as an undocumented immigrant imbues the novel with realistic and horrifying details that could only come from experience: "I still remember the helicopter flying above us, and the dead man we found hidden under some bushes." Of course, Grande had to research aspects of her narrative when she lacked experiences to draw on, but this is the job of a novelist who wants to get it right.

Grande's next project is an as-yet-untitled novel that explores the world of folklórico. "Mexican folk dancing is a subculture in the Latino community, but it isn't written about much," she notes. In the novel, she writes about five women and their relationship to folklórico. An excerpt will be published in "Latinos in Lotus Land: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature," which will be released in 2007 by Bilingual Press.

There is no question that Grande is living the American dream. She was born in Guerrero, Mexico, in 1975, and entered the United States at age 9. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in creative writing from the University of California at Santa Cruz. With that, she became the first person in her entire family to obtain a degree. In 2003, Grande became a PEN USA Emerging Voices Fellow, which led to her getting a literary agent who placed Grande's novel with Atria Books.

Grande hasn't let critical acclaim go to her head: "I struggle to improve my life little by little because I have a son who looks up to me."

A child couldn't ask for a better role model.

Daniel A. Olivas is the author of four books including "Devil Talk: Stories" (Bilingual Press, 2004) and a children's book, "Benjamin and the Word / Benjamin y la palabra" (Arte Público Press, 2005). His Web site is www.danielolivas.com and may be reached at olivasdan@aol.com.




Novel tracks a family split by immigration

San Antonio Express-News

Web Posted: 06/21/2006 12:00 AM CDT

Yvette Benavides
Special to the Express-News

Reyna Grande's first novel, "Across a Hundred Mountains" (Atria Books, $23), takes the difficult subject of immigration and humanizes the players.


Grande migrated to Los Angeles when she was 9 years old. In "Across a Hundred Mountains," the details of her experiences — escaping the poverty of her homeland, where she lived in "a tiny shack made of bamboo and cardboard," to find a better life in " el otro lado " (the other side) — resonate on every page.

In the novel, Juana is an adolescent Mexican girl whose father leaves the family home right after the accidental drowning of his infant daughter. He travels to the United States and promises to return and take the family back with him. Days turn into weeks, then months and then years. His absence devastates his family.

Juana decides she must find her father. She sets out to follow his trail, though the only indication he'd given of his destination was some place "over those mountains."

Through her characters, Grande brings us the human faces of millions of undocumented immigrants who come to America.

Grande had no connection to her absent father once he ventured alone to the United States. She was only 5 years old when he left. "I remember my father because my grandmother had an 8-by-10 photo of him hanging on the wall," she says. "That was my only connection."

Years later her father did return. Grande describes the reunion as "traumatic."

"I compared myself to him. We were so skinny. We had lice and tapeworm and were really dirty and wearing this old, torn clothing," she says. "When I saw him, he was so much fatter than in his picture. He was so healthy and clean, and I remember feeling so ashamed to let him see me that way."

After two attempts, Grande did indeed make it to " el otro lado ." Once in the United States, the struggle was one with the language. Her teachers did not accommodate her in the classroom. Grande learned English through her own voracious appetite for reading.

She now teaches ESL classes and marvels at the tremendous motivation of her students to learn in order to gain more opportunities in this country, but also to give back.

"As long as people have the choice of making $5 a day or $5 an hour, they are going to keep coming to the United States," she says.

Rather than building fences, she adds, the U.S. should deal with illegal immigration by helping countries like Mexico improve their economies. "If there is something there for them, they don't have to leave their children."

Reyna Grande will sign "Across a Hundred Mountains" 5 to 7 p.m. today at the Twig Bookshop, 5005 Broadway.

Yvette Benavides is a professor of English at Our Lady of the Lake University.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Ladies and gentlemen, start your summer reading!



Life has changed and so has summer reading.

The hectic demands of daily life in the 21st century mean that finding sufficient time to read books has become increasingly difficult. So summer, which promises at least some respite from work and school commitments, has become a far more crucial time for serious reading, perhaps the only such time left in the year.

Of course, many people still equate summer reading with a beach chair and the latest seasonal page-turner from Janet Evanovich ("Twelve Sharp"), Nora Roberts ("Angels Fall") or Patricia Cornwell ("At Risk"). But others will use their summer reading to savor an unfamiliar author, an unexplored subject, an intriguing debut.

The summer of 2006 seems particularly well-suited to such discovery, since no single new book has emerged as a dominant must-read in early reviews. The Manhattan publishing world may still wind down during July and August, with half-day Fridays the house rule, but publishing has already provided many worthy titles for whiling away summer hours. No longer is this the lowly season of throwaway fluff.

Debut Novel

"Across a Hundred Mountains" by Reyna Grande (Atria Books, 255 pages, $23).

The issue of Mexican immigration into the United States is all over the news these days, but the human stories of those affected are sometimes lost in the onslaught of angry rhetoric. This quiet-spoken, yet eloquent little novel offers a powerful portrait of the lives of three women along the border, including a 14-year-old Mexican intent on finding her missing father in the States, a young American runaway prostitute who befriends her and a Los Angeles social worker returning to Mexico in search of her own father. Author Grande, who emigrated from Mexico to the U.S. at the age of 8 with her parents, has been honored as an Emerging Voices Fellow by PEN, the noted writers organization.





DAILY NEWS August 16 , 2006


Beyond Melodrama








El Hispano News
Publicado el 07-30-2006

Perseverancia y trabajo como llave del triunfo

Marcos Nelson Suárez

Para triunfar es necesario el talento, pero más que eso, las ganas y algún que otro impulso exterior. Y triunfar es al final hacer lo que a uno le produice satisfacción. Hay quienes sienten que triunfan cuando amasan una fortuna económica, otros, los más soñadores e idealistas, sienten que triunfan cuando la obra que aman –un libro, una escultura, una pintura, llega a la luz y obtiene el reconocimiento del público.
Al final, el triunfo es la consagración de sus aspiracionees… aunque la definición puede extenderse.
Las ganas…. La dedicación, el esfuerzo… estos son algunos de los ingredientes imprescindibles y no importa el estatus migratorio, o la posición económica. Ese es el mensaje que trajo a Dallas este fin de semana, una joven escritora de origen mexicano quien acaba de publicar su primera obra literaria, una novela que recoge la tragedia de los miles de niños que son dejados por sus padres en las tierras de origen, para hacer el penoso viaje al Norte en busca de oportunidades que no existen en sus países de origen.
Reyna Grande pasó por esa experiencia. Y más.
Cuando aún era una niña de apenas cinco años, su padre la dejó allá en el estado de Guerrero, para buscar fortuna en los estados Unidos.
“Por suerte regresó a buscarnos,” dice Reyna. “Otros no fueron tan afortunados.”
Pasar la frontera fue la odisea que millones pueden contar. Dos intentos fallidos y un tercero que “era la última oportunidad,” explica Reyna, “porque mi padre ya no tenía dinero para pagar coyotes y nos dijo que lo intentariamos una vez más y que si fallaba, regresaríamos a Guerrero.”
Con un inglés impecable aunque con cierto dejo mexicano, Reyna Grande expuso al público en la Feria de la Familia y el Libro, finalizada el pasado Domingo, el choque de encontrar un cadáver en la frontera. “El hombre tenía un golpe en la cabeza, pero parecía que estaba dormido.”
Ya en Los Angeles, parecía que para Reyna u sus hermanos, el sufrimiento no terminaba. Viviendop con un a madrastra a la que el padre golpeaba, sufriendo ella misma los ataques de brutalidad del padre que trabajaba en mantenimiento, un día Reyna se vio obligada a dejar su casa.
Las ilusiones y los sueños, cualquiera que hubieran sido, parecían terminados para siempre.
Ahí intervino su maestra de inglés que reconoció en la jovencita un talento especial para escribir.
La maestra se la llevó para su propia casa. “Casi me sentía secuestrada,” dice Reyna, mientras cuenta como la maestra prácticamente la obligaba a leer decenas de libros de escritoras conocidas como Isabel Allende o Sandra Cisneros. “Tu p[uedes escribir como ellas,” me decía la maestra.”
Muchas otras personas a través de su experiencia como estudiante, fueron reconociendo el talento de la chica mexicana.
Becas, préstamos del gobierno, dinero para investigación y escribir rabiosamente mientras exponía una historia que tiene mucho en común con las experiencias a veces trágicas de los indocumentados, fueron aprte del proceso que pasó Reyna Grande, para dar a luz una obra de extraordinario contenido humano y un uso excepcional del lenguaje: “Across a Hundred Mountains,” publicado en junio por la editora Simon & Chuster, una de las casas más reconocidas en Estados Unidos.
Por supuesto, sufrió muchos rechazos, sin embargo, no se dejó caer, y la perseverancia dio los resultados esperados.
A pesar de su triunfo, Reyna sigue siendo una joven humilde, que disfruta conversando con el público acerca de sus experiencias y que no teme mostrar ese lado terrible de una vida llena de dificultades y acosos, quizás porque en el fondo parece estar repitiendo a quien quiera escucharla, que sí, que es posible.
Reyna Grande –un apellido que casi resulta profético- sigue escribiendo y trabaja en la actualidad en un libro sobre folklore. Mientras tanto, da clases de inglés como segunda lengua para grupos de adultos allá en Los Angeles, donde vive entre decenas de flores, su hijo de 4 años, y un gringo colega del magisterio con el cual posiblemente se case a finales de año.
La moraleja de toda esta hustoria se encuentra quizás en los primeros párrafos de este artículo: a pesar de las adversidades, simplemente se puede llegar. Reyna es el mejor ejemplo.




Grande Education

Pasadena City College--The Courier

August 28, 2006

Nathan Solis, Ellipsis Editor

With a soft accent, author Reyna Grande read a few excerpts from her novel "Across a Hundred Mountains" at the Pasadena Vroman's on Colorado Boulevard. Grande is a PCC alumna who attended PCC in 1994 and started as an art major.

Grande's book, a blend of fiction and her own life experiences, explores some of the unanswered questions about immigration through the journey of two women traveling over the Mexican-American border illegally.

Grande's own writing journey began at PCC in 1994. She was enrolled in an English 1A class where she was assigned to write an essay. Her introduction caught her professor off guard.

"It wasn't what I was looking for," said languages professor Diana Savas, "but it was a great essay. I had to tell Reyna what type of talent she had."

In addition, Grande worked as a staff writer for the Courier.

Grande was inspired to expand upon her essay, and she developed it into her novel. "When I got started on my first novel, I stopped at 80 pages," said Grande who transferred from PCC to UC Santa Cruz in 1996. "I didn't want to let go of my dream for writing," said Grande. She was in a rut as far as producing new material, but when she applied to Emerging Voices, a community of writers that assist struggling authors, Grande got the confidence to write again. "When I was accepted I dug out my [unfinished] work and broke away from those 80 pages," she said.

The result of Grande digging out her work was "Across a Hundred Mountains."

The author stood at the podium and read about her characters' struggles and at the same time addressed the current immigration debate.

"People should stop talking about the economic issues [of immigration] and address the family issues," said Grande who is speaking about the five-year separation she experienced as a child from her own parents. "It was difficult to be their child again," said Grande. This was one of the reasons why Grande wrote "Across a Hundred Mountains."

Grande feels that her book is helping those immigrants who come to America, because she is shedding light on the situation.

Grande enthusiast Ariana Manov approached the novel with a "spinach novel" mindset. "When I first got the book I thought it was going to be like spinach. You digest the book and it is good for you," said Manov, "but afterwards I was so pleased with Grande's style. She does a really terrific job of illuminating the 'why' of immigration. Her characters are so complex, and she does it so that she never judges."

Grande's novel has been translated into Spanish and will be released in 2007. She is currently working on her second novel that will profile Latin American folklorico dance.

Grande is ambitious about her work and the power of the written word. She understands that the stories of minorities are not easily acceptable for a wide audience.

"As a writer of color," said Grande, "I had to struggle to sell my novel because it wasn't considered "mainstream", a typical story by a Latina that a "White" audience could identify with."

"My dream is that anyone who has a story to tell can tell it without having to compromise their stories just for the sake of making it "mainstream,"' said Grande.







CATALINA Magazine Announces ‘Top 5 Books by Latina Authors' in 2006

New York, NY--(HISPANIC PR WIRE)--January 8, 2007--For the second consecutive year, CATALINA magazine is recognizing today's best Latina authors and their work by releasing the “Top 5 Books by Latina Authors” list.

At the end of the year (December 2006), CATALINA's selection committee, members of the CATALINA Book Club, voted on the best Latina-authored books published in 2006. Book club Members selected books in 5 categories: Humor, Chick-Lit, Adventure, Fantasy, and Romance. Here are CATALINA's “Top 5 Books by Latina Authors” of 2006:

1. HUMOR: Happy Hour at Casa Dracula, by Marta Acosta

In her debut book, Happy Hour at Casa Dracula (Pocket, 2006), author Marta Acosta brings humor, love, and Latin spice to the undead. According to CATALINA book club member Amanda Arizola, Happy Hour at Casa Dracula is hilarious and over the top. The combination of witty writing and strong characters makes this unusual tale of meeting “Mr. Right” to a fabulously bizarre level. Living “happily ever after” has never been so funny.

2. CHICKLIT: Becoming a Latina in 10 Easy Steps, by Lara Rios

Becoming a Latina in 10 Easy Steps (Berkley Publishing, 2006), by Lara Rios. Reading Lara Rios' book stops the reader dead in her tracks with laughter and with tears, says book club member, Dr. Charley Ferrer. With humor and sensitivity, a delicate combination, Lara remarkably addresses one of the toughest questions U.S. Latinas face: “Are you Latina enough?” Not only does Lara guide her reader through the emotional rollercoaster of living a bicultural life, she pulls it off with wittiness and comedy.

3. ADVENTURE: Across a Hundred Mountains, By Reyna Grande

Across a Hundred Mountains (Simon and Schuster, 2006) by Reyna Grande. Reyna's debut novel about immigration's human side is not only timely and necessary, it's beautiful. According to book club member Mari Solorzano, the book eloquently touches on a sensitive subject that is getting international media attention – the struggles of coming to America. Unfortunately, many people don't realize that those who cross the border just want a better life for their families and live the American dream. Across a Hundred Mountains shows this side of the immigration debate. “It is such a powerful book,” book club member Cynthia Ramos adds.

4. FANTASY: Death Calls, by Caridad Pineiro

Caridad Pineiro's Death Calls (Silhouette Intimate Moments, 2006) is the fourth in her successful vampire series, “The Calling.” Again, Caridad creates a romantic thriller with a dark side that keeps the reader enthralled, entertained, and fascinated. According to book club member Carol Mintz, Death Calls is a fast-paced novel that a reader will not be able to put down. Both the plot and characters hold your interest from page one until the very end. Book club member Diane Bernstein adds: “I love the combination of horror and romance.” Vampire fans have two more books in “The Calling” series to look forward to in 2007: Devotion Calls and Blood Calls.

5. ROMANCE: In Between Men, by Mary Castillo

In 2005, Mary Castillo warmed our hearts with her debut novel Hot Tamara. This year, she does it again, in true, fast-paced and fun Mary Castillo style with In Between Men (Harper Collins, 2006). According to book club member, Juanita Johnson, the romantic chick lit novel brings readers a truly loveable, but confused, protagonist, Isa, who appropriately finds love after a bump to the head. The believable and fun dialogue between the characters, clearly one of Mary's best strengths as an author, makes this romantic tale of girl meets boy an enchanting read.

About the CATALINA book club:

Membership to the book club is free, and also includes invitations to CATALINA magazine's private events, featuring Latina authors, book signings and giveaways, sponsored by Volvo Cars of North America, Deloitte, Eden Foods, and Southwest Airlines. Book worms and literature lovers interested in joining CATALINA book club can register by e-mailing the club's moderator, CATALINA senior writer Rosa Calves, at rosa@catalinamagazine.com.


CATALINA, created “for the mind, body, and soul of today's Latina,” is the official publication of the National Association of Latina Leaders, a non-profit advocacy group promoting Latina equality in the private and public sector. Since 2001, CATALINA has connected with millions of Latinas online, in print, and through national events. For more information, visit http://www.CatalinaMagazine.com.

NOTE TO EDITORS: High-resolution images are available at: http://www.hispanicprwire.com/home.php?l=in



Living the Writer's Life: Reyna Grande

Melinda Palacio

Reyna Grande's debut novel, Across a Hundred Mountains, is not the usual immigrant story and Reyna Grande is not the typical immigrant. At age nine, she crossed the border with her father and she has gone on to become a UCSC graduate, a 2003 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices fellow, and a new author. Most would say, she is living the American Dream. However, after the favorable reviews have been cast and her first book tour comes to a close, she is simply a writer, hard-working, talented, and with eyes set on her next books and a film production of her first novel.

Grande has always been a writer. When she was in junior high school, she won a writing competition for one of her short stories. As an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, she published a chapbook of her short stories, Under the Guamuchil Tree, with a grant from the university. However, it wasn't until she was working at a middle school that she wrote an 80-page children's book and realized that she was ready to produce a novel. She finished the children's book in two weeks and wrote two chapters every day. "For me it was a breakthrough because up until then, all I had written were 12-page short stories. It helped me feel I could finish the novel."

Across a Hundred Mountains has received favorable reviews from Publisher's Weekly, People Magazine, and Kirkus Review, to name a few. The success of her first novel sent the young author, 31, into a whirlwind of excitement that began when her manuscript was first accepted for publication by Atria Books. "I was holding my breath," said Grande. "I was too excited to think about anything else." The moment of her dreams arrived and Grande went along for the ride. In hindsight, Grande would have started serious work on her second novel as soon as the manuscript was accepted.

"It was a year wasted. I do regret a little bit not writing. The bottom line is there's no excuse for not writing. I should've been writing. I had the time to write. It all comes down to being disciplined. Writing a second novel and letting go of what they are going to say about you can be more difficult."

Another distraction that came with the success of her first novel was Grande's first book tour. It was an exhaustive tour, but Grande enjoyed meeting her readers and answering their questions. Grande is a very giving person. Her candid blog is a peek into her personal and professional life. She doesn't mind sharing her life as a writer with her readers. She enjoys the fact that her book signings are more of a forum for her readers to get to know her than an actual reading of her novel.

"My readings are 80% about me. I don't talk about the book. I share more about my own experiences and what led me to write. For me it's opening up to the audience. I get personal questions--that's pretty much the tone of my readings, opening up and answering questions."

Grande finally has time to focus on her second novel. It's almost done! The novel explores the lives of four women and the world of Folklorico dancing. The Los Angeles resident loves Mexican folk dances and Folklorico's vast variety of the music, steps, and costumes. "I find them very creative," she said, "that's one of the beauties of Mexico. It's kind of like Mole--every state makes it different." Her favorite dance is Toro Rabon from her home state of Guerrero.

An excerpt of Grande's second novel will be included in the forthcoming anthology Latinos in Lotus Land by Bilingual Press 2007. Reyna Grande's Across a Hundred Mountains is available in bookstores. To read more about Grande, visit her website and blog www.reynagrande.com .


Back to Top

Across a Hundred Mountains
By Scott Rappaport

Born in rural Mexico , UC Santa Cruz alumna Reyna Grande grew up in extreme poverty. Before she crossed the border to live in Los Angeles at the age of eight, she lived in a cardboard shack with a dirt floor and no running water. She bathed in a dirty canal outside and survived on a diet of only beans and tortillas.

Overcoming the language barrier and her status as an undocumented immigrant in the United States , Grande made the most of her new home, eventually earning a bachelor's degree in Creative Writing/Film & Video from UC Santa Cruz in 1999. For her senior project in UCSC's Literature Department, she even wrote the first 80 pages of her debut novel , Across a Hundred Mountains.

The book is now required reading in core courses at UCSC's Porter and Kresge Colleges.
Across a Hundred Mountains illustrates the perils of immigration and crossing the U.S. border, the heartbreaking cycle of poverty, and the fractured family ties and identities of those who make it to the other side. Inspired by her own life--Grande's father left her to work in the U.S. when she was only a year old--the novel was published in 2006 to critical acclaim.
As People magazine noted: "Grande's spare, elegantly written tale of a young Mexican girl searching for her farmworker father, missing since he left to seek his fortune in 'el otro lado', is a timely and riveting read."

That the novel is filled with details drawn from Grande's own life adds immeasurably to the poignancy of the story.

"The poverty--that's very real to my experience," she says. "There's a scene where my character goes to the market and is picking up rotten vegetables out of the trash cans. My sister in Mexico had a habit of picking up things off the ground--a lollipop or a piece of fruit--and eating them, just because we didn't have any food."

"I wrote this story because all of the books that I read, especially those by Latino authors, never quite captured my own experience," Grande adds. "A lot of books deal with the children of immigrants-what they go through and their identity as U.S.-born Latinos. I always felt a little left out because I wasn't born here, and these stories weren't reflecting my personal experience."

Grande decided to attend UCSC on the recommendation of an English teacher at Pasadena City College who thought it would be an ideal, intimate learning environment for her. "Every time she read my essays, she told me to be a writer," Grande recalls. "She steered me to UCSC because she thought it was a place where I could discover myself as a person."

After graduating, Grande was named a 2003 PEN USA Emerging Voices Fellow, which gave her access to free writing classes as UCLA , as well as the opportunity to meet with agents and publishers in the literary world. "That's how I met my agent," says Grande. "I approached her after she gave a presentation, told her about my book, and we soon began working together."

Now a U.S. citizen, Grande lives in Los Angeles with her four-year-old son. When she's not busy working on her next novel--the story of four women in a Los Angeles-based folklorico group--Grande helps other immigrants transition into the country by teaching adult English. "I feel really happy that I've been able to do all these things; I know if I stayed in Mexico , I wouldn't have been able to do anything meaningful with my life," she says. "Living in the United States has made me aim high and try to be an example for others."

Since Across a Hundred Mountains was published, Grande had given more than 30 readings in Los Angeles and across the Southwest, including several visits to creative writing classes at UCSC. In light of the recent debates in Congress and increased media focus on immigration, she hopes that her book will offer readers a unique perspective on the politically charged issue.

"Instead of building fences, the U.S. should deal with illegal immigration by helping Mexico improve its economy," observes Grande. "Because I experienced the poverty in Mexico, I understand why people are so desperate to come to this country. But even if you build a fence, people are still starving and will still want to come here; the risks will rise, but the people won't go away. It would be much more humane to help the people in Mexico so they would not be so desperate to come here."


'One Book' Program Focuses On Immigration
Region's readers to be linked by author who crossed the border 'without papers'
By Katie Warchut    Published on 5/22/2007
The Day (New London)

Reyna Grande, author of “Across a Hundred Mountains,” the book chosen for the “One Book, One Region” project, speaks Monday at the Groton Public Library.

Groton — Reyna Grande knows it sounds like a cliché when she talks about growing up in Mexico in a shack with no running water. Her father left for the United States when she was just a year old, and her mother followed him after she turned 5.

Her editors told her “an immigrant's story doesn't sell and nobody wants to read it.”

But the readers who came to Groton Public Library Monday proved otherwise. As Grande, the author of “Across a Hundred Mountains,” told them, her editors “were way wrong.”

Her book, the sixth annual selection in the “One Book, One Region” program, will link readers in eastern Connecticut over the summer. A related program of events will highlight the politically charged issue of immigration.

Though many stories chronicle the hardships of immigrants in the United States, Grande, in writing her book, took a different point of view based on her own experience.

“How come nobody's writing about the ones left behind?” she asked.

Grande's earliest memories don't include her parents. She was raised by her sister, who was just four years her senior, and her grandmothers. Her father sent money to build a house in Mexico, but realized that if he came back, he would have no way to provide for the family.

So he took them across the border “without papers,” as Grande calls it. Family members later received their green cards after immigration law granted amnesty to undocumented workers.

That opened doors for Grande, who as a high school student had never considered college, even though she was a straight-A student. School was so important to her father that he threatened to send her back to Mexico if she didn't go.

Grande went to college and became a writing tutor for U.S.-born students, a fact that she always found strange. Music and art were her passions, but after one of her professors read an autobiographical essay, she pushed Grande in another direction.

“Reyna, you're a writer. That's your calling,” the professor said.

The essay was the start of her book. As stories were told to her from Mexico and from the English-language learners she taught, the book changed to fiction.

Her ultimate story is of two women, one born in Mexico, one from the United States, whose lives are joined in a most unlikely way.

Adelina, a 31-year-old social worker at a battered women's shelter, suddenly finds herself on a bus to Mexico, ready to confront her dying mother, accept her past and find happiness in her future. Juana must say goodbye to her father, who leaves Mexico to create a better life for his family in the United States. When her mother falls apart and her family hasn't heard from her father in two years, Juana embarks on the same journey to find him and make her family whole again.

On her way, 14-year-old Juana is wrongfully accused of stealing a man's wallet and is thrown in a Tijuana jail, where she forges an unbreakable bond with an American runaway. While her new friend introduces her to dangerous territory, she also gives Juana her passage to a new life, and consequently, the opportunity to fulfill her dreams.

The “One Book, One Region” program of events includes:

• July 24 — A panel discussion on immigration.

• July 31 — The film “Farmingville,” about the hate-based attempted murders of two Mexican day laborers in Long Island suburbia.

• Aug. 7 — Exploring immigration through family trees.

• Aug. 14 — The film “Lost Boys of Sudan,” which follows two refugees through their first year in America.

• Aug. 21 — The film “El Chogui,” about a man with the dream of becoming a Mexican boxer, only to emigrate to the United States and follow in the footsteps of countless other Mexican peasants.

• Aug. 28 — Susan Topping, professor of humanities at Three Rivers Community College, leads a discussion of “Across a Hundred Mountains.”

Grande will return to speak at 7 p.m. Sept. 24 at Robert E. Fitch High School.


New West Book Review

Reyna Grande's “Across A Hundred Mountains”

By Jenny Shank, 8-16-07


Across A Hundred Mountains
By Reyna Grande
Washington Square Press
272 pages, $13

Reyna Grande's Across A Hundred Mountains , recently published in paperback, offers a human story behind the thousands of immigrants who cross illegally from Mexico to the United States each year.  Although the book is fiction, the author's personal experience informs her tale.  According to the biography on her website , Grande, who now lives in California, “entered the U.S. as an illegal immigrant in 1985” to join her parents when she was ten years old.  Earlier this year, the book won the annual El Premio Aztlan Literary Award, started by New Mexico writer Rudolfo Anaya to honor Chicano literature.

Across A Hundred Mountains begins with a scene of devastating loss in a Mexican village.  Nine-year-old Juana, her baby sister, and mother Lupe are stuck in their flooding shack, waiting for Juana's father Miguel to return from his work as a campesino.  Lupe goes to search for him, leaving Juana standing on the kitchen table holding her sister.  Juana falls asleep while she waits for her parents to return, and the baby dies in the floodwater.  The death of the baby sets off a chain of events that destroys the García family.  When Miguel can't pay the debt for the baby's funeral, he decides to head to the United States to find work, leaving Lupe vulnerable to the rapacious town mortuary director, Don Elías.

The story of Juana is intercut with scenes from the perspective of Adelina, a Mexican American woman who works as a social worker in L.A. and travels to Tijuana to find out the truth about her father's disappearance nineteen years earlier.  In the first chapter, an old coyote leads her to her father's remains, lying where he fell after a snake bit him during his attempt to cross into the U.S.  After Lupe is reduced to a raving alcoholic due to grief caused by the deaths of three of her children, Juana embarks on a journey in the opposite direction to find her father in the U.S.

Grande's prose is spare and simple, and its clarity is often beautiful, such as in this description of Juana's neighborhood in which she remembers walking with her father, whom she calls Apá:

“They ran down the street, Apá pulling her behind him like a kite.  She knew they were almost home when the cobbled stones were replaced with dirt and pebbles.  And the rows of pink, blue, yellow, purple, and green concrete houses became shacks growing out of the earth.  Little shacks made out of bamboo sticks and cardboard, some leaning against one another like little old ladies tired after a long walk.”

Plot and structure rather than nuanced characterization are the primary strengths of Across A Hundred Mountains .  Although Juana, Adelina, and Lupe are given complexity, the supporting characters tend to be wholly good or evil, such as the leering, corpulent Don Elías who ultimately makes Lupe pay her debt by having sex with him, and Don Elías' silent, childless wife who “just sat there, knitting baby clothes she donated to the church.” But villains like these help to propel the plot, providing as many dramatic twists and turns as can be found in a telenovela, making the book go down easily in one sitting.

What is more striking than the influence of villains on the lives of the García family is the harsh consequences of their poverty and the indifference most of the people they encounter have toward their plight.  It's expensive to be poor, their indebtedness compounding every woe, ultimately forcing Juana to become a prostitute for a while in Tijuana until she can raise enough money to hire a coyote to lead her across the border.  She and others in her position are treated as something less than human, the money-minded coyote ready to abandon them in the desert if the immigration authorities turn up or if they move too slowly.  The simple description of Juana's desert crossing attempt is riveting, and the perils make it evident that only a person who is so desperate to reach the U.S. that she would be willing to give up her life to do so ever embarks on such a journey.

With “Across A Hundred Mountains” Reyna Grande has humanized the lightning-rod topic of illegal immigration by telling the story of one embattled family.




January 28, 2008

Contact: Scott Rappaport (831) 459-2496; srapp@ucsc.edu

UC Santa Cruz alumna receives 2007 American Book Award for first novel

UC Santa Cruz alumna Reyna Grande has been honored with a 2007 American Book Award for her debut novel, Across A Hundred Mountains .

The American Book Awards--established in 1978 by the Before Columbus Foundation--recognize "outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America's diverse literary community." Award-winners range from well-known and established writers to under-recognized and emerging authors. The goal of the awards is to acknowledge the excellence and multicultural diversity of American writing.

Grande earned her bachelor's degree in creative writing/film & video from UC Santa Cruz in 1999. She wrote the first 80 pages of Across A Hundred Mountains as part of her senior project in UCSC's Literature Department, and the book is now required reading in core courses at the campus's Porter and Kresge Colleges.

Inspired by her own journey to the U.S. from a childhood of extreme poverty in Mexico, Grande's novel deals with the issue of immigration and how it affects family members—both those who make it across the border, and those who are left behind. As People magazine noted: "Grande's spare, elegantly written tale of a young Mexican girl searching for her farmworker father, missing since he left to seek his fortune in 'el otro lado', is a timely and riveting read."

"I wrote this story because all of the books that I read, especially those by Latino authors, never quite captured my own experience," Grande said in a recent article published in UC Santa Cruz's Review magazine Review . "A lot of books deal with the children of immigrants—what they go through and their identity as U.S.-born Latinos. I always felt a little left out because I wasn't born here, and these stories weren't reflecting my personal experience."

UCSC associate professor of literature Micah Perks described the American Book Award as "a parallel award to the National Book Award—it's a more inclusive award that recognizes the best books that expand our idea about what it means to be an American." Perks is co-director of the UCSC Creative Writing Program along with associate literature professor Karen Yamashita, who received an American Book Award herself in 1991 for Through The Arc of the Rainforest .

"All of us associated with the Creative Writing program are so gratified to play a role in supporting and training young writers like Reyna--writers with something important to say," Perks added.

Grande's novel previously won the 2006 Premio Atzlan Literary Award, established to encourage and reward emerging Chicana and Chicano authors. She is currently working on a second novel—the story of four women in a Los Angeles-based folklorico group.





UCSC alumna and author earns prestigious award

isaiah guzman - sentinel correspondent

Article Launched: 02/26/2008

As a young Mexican immigrant trying to learn English, and later as a student in UC Santa Cruz's literature department, Reyna Grande read lots of books. Yet even from Latino authors, Grande never could find an account that quite captured her own experience of coming to the U.S.

So, in an indirect way, she decided to tell her story.

"Across A Hundred Mountains," the first 80 pages at least, began as a senior project, and in December, the UCSC alumna's fictional debut novel inspired by her life won a 2007 American Book Award.

"The saying goes you write about what you want to read," says Grande, "and that's what I did."

The American Book Awards, established in 1978, are among the most prestigious in the nation. Given by other writers, the awards try to focus on the multicultural diversity of American writing. Winners include well-known and established writers as well as those just starting their careers.

"I really admire all those Latino writers," said Grande, rattling off a list of her favorites. "They've all got American Book Awards, so when I got it I felt like, 'Oh, I'm headed in the right direction.'"

Originally published in 2006, "Across A Hundred Mountains" that year also won the Premio Atzlan Literary Award, which recognizes emerging Chicana and Chicano authors. The book tells a tale of a young Mexican girl coming to the U.S. in search of her farmworker father, who left his family behind for a better life in 'el otro lado.'

Now 32 years old and living in South Central Los Angeles with her husband, Cory Rayala, Grande has a similar story. Her parents left for the U.S. when she was just a few years old. Grande's father returned when she was 10 to cross her and her siblings over the border illegally.

With their parents gone, Grande and her siblings lived in a shack made of bamboo and tar-soaked cardboard, just like the one in which one of the novel's protagonists, Juana, spends part of her youth.

Grande earned her bachelor's degree in creative writing and film and video from UCSC in 1999. She's now working on a third book, her memoir, as well as a master's in creative writing from Antioch University. She also teaches adult education for Los Angeles Unified School District.

Four weeks ago, Grande gave birth to her second child, a girl.

"I'm totally thrilled and proud of Reyna," said Micah Perks, the co-director of creative writing in UCSC's literature department. "And I think she's worked incredibly hard, both in her writing and in her life."

Sometime in the not-so-distant future, Grande said she may return to Mexico for a year with her husband. He'll teach English, she'll write and get reacquainted with the country she left at such a young age.

"Sometimes I get very nostalgic for it," she said, "and I think it's because I hardly know it."

Contact Isaiah Guzman at 429-2436 or jcopeland@santacruzsentinel.com .