Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 253
In this memoir, Reyna Grande recalls her childhood and youth, both in Mexico and the United States. The early years were spent largely with two grandmothers after first her father and then her mother moved to the United States—the other side, or Otro Lado, of the border. Her mother’s return, although welcomed, brought mixed emotions as she also brought a new baby sister. Going to live with her other grandmother, Reyna endured harsh discipline as well as separation anxiety regarding her parents.
When Reyna was eight, her father returned; although he initially intended to take just one son, he decides to take all three children to the United States. Grande contrasts the deprivation of her Mexican life to the different kinds of challenges she and her family faced north of the border. Once she arrives in California, Reyna must deal with both her father’s alcoholism and the precariousness of being undocumented. Forced to confront his rage and abuse and feeling her stepmother’s neglect, she also must learn to negotiate school in a new language.
Grande conveys movingly the solace she finds in books. Voracious reading soon leads to introspective writing, an entré into her future career as a writer. In her dedication to continuing her education, Reyna again faces a challenge from her father’s traditional ways, as he supports her brothers but not her in attending college. Through a visit to her Mexican village, she comes to accept that she cannot really return or feel at home there.
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