I recently had the opportunity to listen in on a Q&A with Reyna Grande, author of Across a Hundred Mountains and her latest novel, Dancing with Butterflies.
Reyna Grande was born in Mexico and came to the United States at the age of nine. She holds a B.A. and a M.F.A. in creative writing-the first degrees obtained in her family.
Isn't that a beautiful legacy to give your family?
These degrees go deeper than just merely making it through school and graduating with a degree. You see, for Reyna, writing was a way to not only express herself, but to exist. Although she did not experience any sort of culture-shock when she arrived to Highland Park, a community in Los Angeles with a predominantly Chicano/Latino population, school was a different story. Shunned by her elementary teacher and banished from being an integral member of the class, Reyna spent most of her first years in school in a corner of the classroom working with a teacher's assistant because of her lack of the English language. On top of that was the teasing from other children because of her accent and her struggle with pronunciation. All of this resulted in Reyna being driven to read and write in English because of her desire to learn the language. Unfortunately, her school library (as is the case with many school libraries still today) had little in terms of books relating to the Latino experience. Reyna devoured Sweet Valley High and Babysitter Club series, but they didn't do much for her. It wasn't until she came across V.C. Andrews and books like Flowers in the Attic, Dark Angel and Heaven, that Reyna felt a connection, and her love of stories grew. Themes of poverty, neglectful and unloving parents, and children feeling unwanted resonated with Reyna, even though the setting was rural West Virginia, far from her own home.
Today, although English is her second language, it has become her dominant language and Reyna Grande writes most fluently and comfortably in English.
Although Reyna has had much success with her first two novels, her next project will be a memoir dealing with her family. She notes though, that considering herself a perfectionist, she is not sure how long it will take her to finish rewriting. Besides, she says, "It's a touchy thing. A dangerous thing to write a memoir."
If you are a fan of Reyna Grande's novels, not to worry, she is doing research on a tragic love story that takes place during the Mexican/American War. She giggles and says, "I like writing sad. But once I start writing my characters might rebel and demand a happy ending."
If you haven't read Reyna Grande's novels, do yourself a favor and do so.
Dancing with Butterflies is a novel that although set to the back drop of the traditional Mexican Dance of Folklórico, is ultimately a story about love, loss and friendship.
Please read my entire review of Dancing with Butterflies at my new blog, Libros to Read.