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'The Distance Between Us' introduces kids to the immigrant experience

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'The Distance Between Us' chronicles Reyna Grande's experience being left behind in an impoverished Mexican town, while her parents went in search of work across the border.

Immigration is a political issue, an economic issue, and often, it's a family issue, too. 

In plenty of instances, young children are left behind as parents seek to find work in the United States. 

A new book called "The Distance Between Us" explores the lasting impact of families being torn asunder in this way. It's an adaptation of a memoir by writer Reyna Grande, aimed specifically at younger audiences. 

The book chronicles Grande's personal experience being left behind in an impoverished town in Mexico while her parents went in search of a better life across the border. 

Interview highlights:

On what her life was like in Iguala, Mexico

When I was growing up there, we didn't have the violence that my family who lives there now is experiencing, and all the instability. What my siblings and I experienced was mostly the poverty, the lack of opportunities. Iguala is a very poor town, about 70 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty, and that's what I experienced. And now it breaks my heart to see that the city is changing for the worse.

On what it was like to grow up without her parents around

It was a very painful childhood. I would say that my childhood was defined by my parents' absence. I grew up in fear. Every day I woke up afraid that they might not come back for me, afraid that they would forget me, and afraid that they would replace me. Which actually did happen when they had American-born children and I felt replaced. And my fear increased thinking that now that they were going to have children in the United States, I would ask myself, 'Why would they want me now?'


On the coming to a place of forgiveness while writing the book

Writing the book really helped me come to terms with what happened, and it actually brought me to a place of understanding and forgiveness. It allowed me to look back at my parents' decisions and to understand that they were in a very difficult place. And that the decisions they made, although they caused a lot of trauma in my life, a lot of heartbreak, ultimately those decisions brought me to where I am now... And one of the things that I'm most grateful for, now that I'm a parent myself is that now, I don't have to leave my children the way that they did. And that is the greatest gift they gave me.

On why she decided to adapt her memoir for 10 to 14-year-old readers

I still remember coming to this country through those years— my 10 to 14 years. I really struggled here, learning a language, finding my way in this new society and this new culture.  And I turned to books to try to find some answers, and I could never find books that I could relate to. There were no books about child immigrants, there were no books where I could see my own heartbreaks and my experiences. So there was always a yearning and a void inside of me. And when I wrote 'The Distance Between Us,' I knew that at some point that I wanted to adapt it for young readers, especially for our young immigrant children who are going to U.S. schools who might be experiencing the same things I experienced... And I wanted to give them a book that spoke to their own experiences and to tell them, 'Yes, your story matters.'

To hear the full interview with Reyna Grande, click the blue player above.

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