Author, educator, activist and motivational speaker Reyna Grande was in town recently to discuss her award-winning book, “The Distance Between Us” at Washburn University. While in town, she stopped by Topeka High School to meet and talk with the school’s English Language Learners, or ELL students. Over pizza, she shared with them her own immigrant experience in the U.S.
“It’s a way to use my story to inspire them and to give them a little bit of guidance because they’re going through the things that I went through. I want to let them know that they’re not alone in their struggle, that there is hope, and with hard work and perseverance they’re going to get ahead in life and really learn the way of life here,” she said.
Rayna’s book, “The Distance Between Us,” documents her immigration from Iguala, Mexico to the United States to seek a better future, and the harrowing journey behind it. Iguala, in the Mexican state of Guerrero, is where 43 students, on September 26, 2014, were kidnapped and presumed killed sparking massive national and international outcries of Mexican government involvement.
In her book, Grande paints a vivid picture of loss, poverty, and the will to survive, to make her way to “el otro lado,” or “the other side,” referencing the United States. The inspirational memoir gives insight into the hot button topic of immigration. The Los Angeles Times hailed it as “the ‘Angela’s Ashes’ of the modern Mexican immigrant experience.” The THS students were given a copy of her book as a gift from the Tonantzin Society.
In addition to Grande visiting Topeka High, there was also a college fair held at the high school to encourage Latino students to pursue higher education. Representatives from Washburn University Multi Cultural Affairs, Kansas State University Ethnic Studies, Kansas University Latin American Studies Outreach and University of Missouri Kansas City Latin Studies were all in attendance.
Sponsors for these events were AT&T of Kansas and Washburn Multi Cultural Affairs. For more information on this inspirational Latina author visiting Topeka for the Tonantzin Society's Hispanic Heritage Month event, go towww.tonantzinsociety.com