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About the Author

REYNA GRANDE (1975 -   )

Life in Mexico was not easy for Reyna Grande, who was born in Guerrero, Mexico in 1975. Her family was very poor.  When Reyna was just two years old, her father became one of the many illegal immigrants crossing the United States border in search of work during one of Mexico’s worst recessions.  American dollars were harder to earn than he expected, so in 1980 he left for the United States.  He soon sent for his wife to help him earn money.  Reyna and her siblings – sister Mago and brother Carlos – were left behind in Mexico and brought up by their paternal grandmother. It wasn't until five years later, after two unsuccessful attempts, that her father brought Reyna and her siblings over the border to the United States in the dead of night. Reyna and her family members later received their green cards in 1990, after the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 granted amnesty to three million undocumented immigrants.

Reyna GrandeIn 1985, Reyna was enrolled in the fifth grade in Aldama Elementary in Highland Park, California (in Mexico she had just finished third grade). She recalls being put in a corner to be taught by the teacher's assistant because her teacher didn't speak Spanish.  However, despite many obstacles, she persevered, and graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in Highland Park (Los Angeles) in 1993.  Reyna attended Pasadena City College from 1994 - 1996. She then transferred to the University of California, Santa Cruz and graduated in 1999 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing and Film and Video.  She was the first in her family to obtain a college degree. After graduating, Reyna was named a 2003 PEN USA Emerging Voices Fellow, which gave her access to free writing classes at UCLA, as well as the opportunity to meet with agents and publishers in the literary world.  In 2003, Reyna attended National University and received her teaching credential and then taught ESL to Los Angeles Unified School District 6th - 8th graders, and later adults. She received her M.F.A in Creative Writing from Antioch University. 

While an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, Reyna 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. Her first novel, Across a Hundred Mountains, originated from her UC Santa Cruz senior thesis. Though a work of fiction, Across a Hundred Mountains draws heavily on Reyna’s experience growing up in Mexico and her illegal immigration to the United States.  She followed that book with Dancing with Butterflies in 2009, using the alternating voices of four very different women whose lives interconnect through a common passion for their Mexican heritage and a Latin American folklorico dance company. 

Known mainly for her fiction, which has a strong immigrant and cross-cultural voice, Reyna’s third published work is her first work of non-fiction.  Released almost simultaneously in English and Spanish, The Distance Between Us: A Memoir tells Reyna’s immigrant coming-of-age story in the United States, and her life growing up in a transnational household, torn between two parents and two countries.  Reyna Grande has become an award-winning novelist and memoirist whose works have received national acclaim.

Now, in addition to being a published author, Reyna Grande is an important public voice for Mexican - Americans and immigrants of every origin. She is an active promoter of Latino literature and is a well-known and highly regarded speaker at high schools, colleges, and universities across the nation.  Grande is now a United States citizen living in Los Angeles, teaching novel writing at UCLA Extension, and working on her next novel.

For more information about Reyna Grande go to:

Reyna Grande’s Website

Reyna Grande’s Facebook

Reyna Grande’s Twitter


Inquebrantable: Mi Historia, A Mi Manera by Jenni Rivera (2013) **  

The Distance Between Us: A Memoir (2012)

“My Teacher, My Friend” from Count on Me: Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships (2012) *

Dancing with Butterflies:  A Novel (Washington Square Press, 2009)

Adriana Reyna Grande” from Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (2008) *

Across a Hundred Mountains: A Novel (Atria, 2006) 

A Través de Cien Montañas:  Novela (Atria, 2007) **

* Contributor
** Translator

For more about Reyna Grande’s works, go to


  • 2013 National Book Critics Circle Awards Finalist
  • 2013 Pasadena City College Writer-in-Residence
  • 2012 Latino Books Into Movies Award
  • 2012 NBCC Award Finalists
  • 2012 “One of the Best Adult Books 4 Teens”  (School Library Journal)
  • 2012 “One the 15 Best Books of 2012” (The Christian Science Monitor)
  • 2010 Pasadena Festival of Women Authors, featured author
  • 2010 International Latino Book Award
  • 2007 American Book Award
  • 2006 El Premio Aztlan Literary Award
  • 2006 "Top Adventure Book by a Latina Author" Award (Catalina Magazine)

Reyna Grande



C-Span2 BookTV: Reyna Grande interview, The Distance Between Us: A Memoir (10:05 minutes). October 15, 2012

Book Marc - Radio for TV: Marc Bernier interviews Reyna Grande about her memoir The Distance Between Us: A Memoir (16:05 minutes).  March 10, 2013

Writer Artist in Residence, Pasadena State College: Reyna Grande reads and discusses The Distance Between Us: A Memoir on October 17, 2012 (43:53 minutes).  Published on December 5, 2012  The Distance Between Us: A Memoir book trailer (1:14 minutes). Published on July 30, 2012

BookTV: Reyna Grande talks about The Distance Between Us: A Memoir (10:05 minutes).  Published on October 15, 2012

NBCC: In conjunction with the Board of the National Book Critics Circle, Alex Bennett, on behalf of The New School Graduate Writing Program, interviews Reyna Grande, a 2012 honorees for the NBCC Awards (15:46 minutes). Streamed live on February 11, 2013  

Writers' Program Publication Party 2013: Reyna Grande reads from The Distance Between Us: A Memoir (4:56 minutes).  Published on September 13, 2013

Reyna Grande: Reyna Grande reads various excerpts from The Distance Between Us: A Memoir

Alas Media: Photo shoot with Reyna Grande (5:44 minutes). Uploaded May 1, 2009


Reyna Grande website: A conversation with Reyna Grande about The Distance Between Us: A Memoir from her official website. Viewed October 28, 2013

Modern Latina: An interview Reyna Grande about her memoir The Distance Between Us: A Memoir. March 14, 2013

NBCC Critical Mass: NBCC board member Rigoberto González offers an appreciation of the 2012 NBCC autobiography award finalist The Distance Between Us: A Memoir. February 4, 2013

The Press Democrat: Author Reyna Grande talks to students at Petaluma High School about being a writer and about her book The Distance Between Us: A Memoir by Kerry Benefield.  January 29, 2013

Los Angeles Review of Books: “Reyna Grande on Immigration’s Toll” by Sandra Tarling.  January 23rd, 2013

Los Angeles Review of Books: Daniel Olivas interviews Reyna Grande. December 6, 2012

KPCC, Southern California Public Radio: A conversation with author Reyna Grande on illegal border crossings and today's DREAMERS by Vanessa Romo. October 18, 2012

The Daily Beast: Lorenza Muñoz discusses The Distance Between Us: A Memoir with author, Reyna Grande. September 23, 2012

KUNM – 89.9 Albuquerque/Santa Fe: Host Cristina Baccin interviews Reyna Grande (15.35 minutes).  March 25, 2013


About Reyna Grande

Q. What is your birthdate?

A. 9/7

Reyna GrandeQ. Previous occupations

A. middle school teacher, adult school teacher

Q. Favorite job

A. program coordinator of a book festival

Q. High school and/or college

A. Franklin H.S. in Los Angeles and UC, Santa Cruz

Q. Name of your favorite composer or music artist?

A. Mana

Q. Favorite movie

A. Santa Sangre

Q. Favorite television show

A. I'm torn between Madmen, Battle Star Galactica, and Dexter

Revealing Questions

Q. How would you describe your life in only 8 words?

A. Like a roller coaster ride at Magic Mountain

Q. What is your motto or maxim?

A. Things happen for a reason

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?

A. Boring

Q. What’s your greatest fear?

A. Dying and leaving my children to be raised by someone else. Not being there to see them grow


Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?

A. Anywhere but the U.S. It's a big world out there and I haven't had a chance to see much of it.

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?

A. Frida Kahlo

Q. Which living person do you most admire?

A. J.K. Rowling

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?

A. The words "stare" and "glance". My husband usually deletes them from my manuscript!

Q. What do you regret most?

A. Not acquiring any other skills, besides writing.

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?

A. A great imagination

Q. What is your greatest achievement?

A. Becoming the first person in my family to graduate from college.

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?

A. Not doing enough research before making a decision on something.

Q. What’s your best quality?

A. I'm passionate about my work.

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?

A. J.K. Rowling

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?

A. My height

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?

A. Howard Roark

Q. If you could meet any historical character, who would it be and what would you say to him or


A. I would love to meet Frida Kahlo. I would thank her for her strength and perseverance, which has inspired not only me but thousands of Latinas.

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?

A. Plastic shopping bags and Americans' obsession with their lawns

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?

A. gardening and planning literary events

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?

A. Film editor

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?

A. being straight-forward, goal-oriented, imaginative

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?

A. mango sprinkled with chili powder

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?

A. Mariposa by Mana, Corazoncito Tirano by Lila Downs, Europa by Santana, Tragos Amargos by Ramon Ayala, El Desierto by Lhasa

On Books and Writing

Q. Who are your favorite authors?

A. Sandra Cisneros, Ayn Rand, Gina B. Nahai, J.K. Rowling, Juan Rulfo, Kahlil Gibran, Kurt Vonnegut, Demetria Martinez, Agatha Christie

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?

A. Caspian Rain by Gina Nahai, Train to Trieste by Domnica Radulescu, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mother Tongue by Demetria Martinez, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Q. Is there a book you love to reread?

A. All of the above

Q. Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?

A. Re-write the hell out of your books.

Q. What comment do you hear most often from your readers?

A. "Your book made me cry."


Reyna Grande, official website

Reyna Grande, official publisher page from Simon & Shuster