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A Dream Called Home

Reading Group Guide

    This reading group guide for A Dream Called Home includes an introduction, discussion question,s and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

    Introduction

    A Dream Called Home is the inspiring new memoir from Reyna Grande, the National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and nationally bestselling author of The Distance Between Us, about her quest for belonging, a writing career, and a home built of more than words and dreams. This memoir picks up where The Distance Between Us left off, recounting Reyna’s pursuit to become the first in her family to earn a college degree and to find her place and a home in her adoptive country.

    At UC, Santa Cruz and on her own for the first time, Reyna faces new struggles and learns to forge ahead toward her dreams despite the alienation and estrangement from her family and her new community. Back in Los Angeles after graduation, Reyna attempts to parlay her creative writing degree into a full-time job only to discover she knows nothing about the publishing business. Through it all, Reyna holds fast to her dreams and makes the impossible possible—she goes from being an undocumented immigrant to an award-winning author. Reyna details the arduous journey of pursuing her dream of becoming a writer and finding that one thing she has desperately longed for ever since her parents left her behind in Mexico—a home.

    Topics & Questions for Discussion

    1. Discuss the epigraph that begins A Dream Called Home. Why do you think Grande has chosen to begin her memoir with this quote? How does it help you understand her as both an immigrant and an author?

    2. Although Reyna Grande’s hometown, Iguala de la Independencia, has a rich history, it is a poor city where over 70 percent of the population is living in poverty. As a child, Grande writes that she “had been able to see past the imperfections and find the beauty of my hometown.” (p. 46) What are some of the moments of beauty that she finds? Describe Grande’s visits back to Iguala. How does the way that Grande sees her hometown evolve when she returns?

    3. Grande writes “My biggest virtue and my biggest flaw was the tenacity with which I clung to my dreams, no matter how futile they might seem to others.” (p. 5) Explain her statement. Why does Grande see this quality in herself as both negative and positive? How does this trait serve her? What are some of the dreams that Grande holds on to?

    4. After Reyna learns the word “impervious,” she “knew it was a word I wanted to be defined by.” (p. 74) Why does the word appeal to Reyna? Do you think that it is an apt description of her personality? Why or why not? If you could only define yourself with one word, what would you choose? Explain your answer.5. Although “Where are you from?” is an “innocent question,” Grande writes that it “always confused me when asked by a white person.” (p. 11) Why is the question such a charged one for Reyna and other immigrants? When Reyna is asked where she’s from by other Latino students, her reaction is different. Why?

    6. Grande writes having “the name Reyna Grande, ‘the big queen,’ when you are only five feet tall sets you up for a lifetime of ridicule.” (p. 29) In what other ways does Reyna’s name affect the way that people perceive her? Describe her reaction to being called “Renée Grand” by one of her teachers at UCSC. What appeal does having an Anglicized name hold for her? Why does she resist it?

    7. When Reyna returns to Mexico and visits her family, her young cousin is fascinated with her life in America and asks if she lives in Disneyland. Reyna thinks, “I didn’t live in Disneyland, but I did live in a magical place.” (p. 228) Why does she see America as a magical place despite all of the hardships that she’s encountered since immigrating? Did reading about Reyna’s experience as an immigrant change your perspective about life in the United States?

    8. When visiting Betty in Mexico, Reyna wonders “why both Betty and I had an unhealthy need to be loved and wanted by men.” (p. 53) What does she think the root cause for this trait is? How has the sisters’ childhood affected the way they handle themselves as adults? Describe some of the ways that both Betty and Reyna have attempted to cope with their traumatic upbringings.

    9. Why does Reyna decide to take a Spanish for Spanish Speakers class? When Reyna confides in Marta, her instructor, about her feelings of inadequacy when visiting Mexico, Marta tells her, “It isn’t that you aren’t enough. In fact, the opposite is true.” (p. 96) What does she mean? Does Marta’s perspective help Reyna to reframe her experience? In what ways?

    10. While Reyna is enrolled at UCSC, she takes a summer job as part of the maintenance crew at Kresge College. Ironically, although Reyna “had hoped to forget my father . . .my work on the paint crew brought me closer to him.” (p. 100) Describe the work that Reyna and her crewmates are tasked with. How does this work give Reyna new insight into her father?

    11. Seeing Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston speak is a watershed moment for Reyna. She writes that the experience leads her to “fully grasp what a writer did.” (p. 128) Why does Reyna find Wakatsuki’s appearance and her story so empowering? What is the role of the writer according to Reyna? Does she embody this ideal? If so, how?

    12. When Reyna is having difficulty finding employment, Norma advises her to apply for a job as a seasonal worker in a clothing store telling her that “a job is a job.” (p. 154) Why is Reyna resistant to apply? What would you do if you were in her position? Why do her siblings give her a hard time about the position?

    13. How does Mago react when Reyna tells her that she’s planning on going back to school to take writing classes? Were you surprised by Mago’s reaction? Reyna tells Mago that she’s “doing this for both of us.” (p. 208) Why is it so important for Reyna to go back to school? In what ways does it help her and Nathan?14. Before Reyna begins teaching, she reflects upon her favorite teachers, trying to determine what about their methods she can imitate. What does Reyna admire about Diana, Marta, and Micah? What makes them successful teachers? What did you think of Reyna’s teaching methods? What challenges does she face as a new teacher? Is she able to connect with her students? If so, how?

    15. When Reyna mails her application for the Emerging Voices program, Diana says “This is going to change your life” (p. 215). Why do you think Diana was so certain that Reyna would be accepted? Did Reyna have as much belief in her future? Think of an event that changed the course of your life. Did you recognize the importance of the event at the time or only in hindsight? How would your life be different today had this event not occurred?

    16. Reyna chooses to turn down the book offer from the editor who wants to make her protagonist U.S.-born. Why was it so important to Reyna to keep her main character an immigrant? Would you have made the same choice? Why or why not? What other difficult choices does Reyna make throughout the memoir? What difficult choices have you made in your life?

    17. Grande writes of the moment when she first held her published book. “I had finally built a home that I could carry.” (p. 316) What do you think she means by this? What other “homes” does Reyna build? What does the title A Dream Called Home mean to you?

    Enhance Your Book Club

    1. When Reyna’s friend Erica introduces her to the work of Frida Kahlo, she feels an immediate connection to the art and sees Kahlo as an “artist who had done what I was trying to do—turn her pain into art.” (p. 115) Explore Kahlo’s paintings with your book club. Do you see any common themes between the paintings and Grande’s prose? Did Kahlo’s paintings elicit any emotions from you? Talk about them with your group.

    2. Grande writes that “fiction allowed me to explore my experiences from a distance.” (p. 129). Read some of Grande’s fiction and describe the way that she brings her own life experiences into it. Were there any stories in her books that you recognized from her memoir? Why is writing nonfiction initially too painful for Reyna?

    3. After joining the folklórico group, Reyna learns that the medium is not simply to entertain, but rather, it is a “source of pride, a rich cultural tradition.” (p. 116) Watch a performance with your book club and discuss it. What did you think of the performance? How does Reyna’s involvement in the folklórico group help her to better understand her roots? Are there traditions from your culture like folklórico? Share them with one another.

    4. To learn more about Reyna Grande, read about her upcoming projects, read reviews, and find out if she will be in a city near you, visit her official site at reynagrande.com.

More Books From This Author

La distancia entre nosotros
The Distance Between Us
Dancing with Butterflies
Across a Hundred Mountains

About the Author

Reyna Grande
Photograph by Imran Chaudhry

Reyna Grande

Reyna Grande is an award-winning author, motivational speaker, and writing teacher. As a girl, she crossed the US–Mexico border to join her family in Los Angeles, a harrowing journey chronicled in The Distance Between Us, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist that has been adopted as the common read selection by over twenty schools and colleges and fourteen cities across the country. Her other books include the novels Across a Hundred Mountains, winner of a 2007 American Book Award, and Dancing with Butterflies, and The Distance Between Us, Young Reader’s Version. She lives in Woodland, CA with her husband and two children. Visit ReynaGrande.com.

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