Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 540
The Distance Between Us: A Memoir is a 2012 autobiographical novel written by Reyna Grande. It tells the story of the day-to-day struggles of a young Mexican girl born in poverty who escapes to the USA in order to find a better life. The girl is the author herself and through a plethora of realistic and hunting images from her past, she manages to convey an important massage: Never stop dreaming.
One of the main themes in the book is the suffering of not only the author, but of the other children who face the same fate as well; children who were born in poverty, who grew up facing cruelty from the world and even sometimes from their families and who were forced to sacrifice the joys of childhood to have a better chance of surviving. Grande talks about how, amidst the daily struggles she had to face when she was in Mexico and later on when she moved to the States, she was able to learn the power of love. She writes how the will to keep on moving forward united her with her siblings strengthened their relationship, which would make the importance of family the next key theme of the story.
Grande paints an accurate picture of the emotions a child feels when separated from his or her family. Grande’s father leaves her to make some money and build a new life for them in the USA when she was only two years old, and two years later, her mother joins her husband as well. Reyna is left with her grandmother, Evila, and her siblings, Carlos and Mago, and carries a picture of her father whom she calls “The Man behind the Glass.” She explains that her father is like a man behind a glass wall; she remembers him, but she is never actually able to see him clearly or touch him. Her father returned for her when she was eight and took his children with him across the border to “El Otro Lado” (“The Other Side”). She tells us that her father had a drinking problem and was often abusive towards his children, but in the end, they forgave him. Through her memories, we are able to witness a person’s ability to love and forgive, especially when it’s about one’s family.
Following her new life in the States, the next theme which would be characteristic of the novel is the challenges and the obstacles many immigrants face when they go to the US. Illegal immigration has always been a pivotal part of American history. This memoir describes how many immigrants are forced to leave their families behind and how many are forced to give up on their dreams and their education so they can make a living for themselves. But it also tells the story of how people are able to rise above their fears and the cruelty of life and manage to walk the path of success. It also explains how they must never stop dreaming and believing, so that they can be remembered and contribute to society. Grande tells us how humanity is more important than race and ethnicity and how, before we are anything else, we are first and foremost human.