By Thania Requeno
Montgomery College Germantown welcomed Reyna Grande, a novelist whose award winning books described, shared her experiences as an undocumented immigrant in the United States. However, Grande also detailed how her community college experiences transformed her life as much as immigrating to the United States.
Ms. Grande addressed the Frank Islam Athenaeum Symposia. She has received numerous awards and recognitions including the Latino Book Award, American Book Reward, and One Maryland, One Book.
The Maryland Humanities Council collaborated with MC Germantown Library to host the October 1 event. The event was held in Globe Hall and was well packed with MC English students, sociology students, and even local high school students from Seneca Valley. Grande’s memoir, A Distance Between Us, was chosen for 2014 One Maryland One Book.
The event held a question and answer segment as well as a book signing for her memoir.
Montgomery College is well known for its diverse population. Many students at MC can relate to Reyna Grande’s experience “feeling marginalized” entering an entirely new nation and culture.
Grande was two years old when her father left to the United States for the American dream. Two years later, her mother left as well. “When my parents left, I felt they left because they did not love me or want me,” Grande said. “I didn’t know [as a child] about the economy in Mexico, or the devaluing of the peso or the lack of work opportunities.”
At the age of 10, she crossed the southern border, undocumented. “I didn’t know a single word of English when I arrived,” says Grande. She was reunited with her parents, but did not yet acknowledge the unconscious trauma the separation from immigration had left as a child.
She started her education in California in fifth grade. She shared she was seated in a corner of her classroom to watch and listen to her teacher and classmates. “My classmates, also, had black hair and brown eyes, but they spoke a language I did not speak,” expressed Grande.
Grande learned English in sixth grade and continued her education. She expected to become a painter. However, her life changed when she started Pasadena City Community College. Her experience with her creative writing professor motivated her to become a writer.
“I am proud of being a product of a community college,” Grande expressed, “they were two of the best years of my life.”
Grande’s father was arrested right before her eyes while she was attending community college. She still had to do homework, go to school, and pay attention in class while feeling “helpless, vulnerable, and lonely.”
Her creative writing professor opened her home to Grande after her father was arrested. Although she “never thought herself as a writer,” she earned a degree in creative writing and film and video from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Grande shared that after writing her memoir, she was “a completely new person.” She was able to confront the fear that her “father would never return to her.” She knew she could no longer “hide behind the truth”.
Writing her memoir gave Grande the liberty to break down her fears and heal the pain trauma had left in her heart due to her immigration experience.
Grande asserted she “would be stuck in the cycle of poverty if she would never have come to the United States.”
She is currently putting one of her cousins through high school and another through beauty school because she “knows the difference education makes.”
MC Germantown Library did great hosting such a talented writer, Reyna Grande, at our campus to motivate our students of different backgrounds and come ups.