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A Dream Called Home
Table of Contents
About The Book
“Here is a life story so unbelievable, it could only be true.” —Sandra Cisneros, bestselling author of The House on Mango Street
From bestselling author of the remarkable memoir The Distance Between Us comes an inspiring account of one woman’s quest to find her place in America as a first-generation Latina university student and aspiring writer determined to build a new life for her family one fearless word at a time.
As an immigrant in an unfamiliar country, with an indifferent mother and abusive father, Reyna had few resources at her disposal. Taking refuge in words, Reyna’s love of reading and writing propels her to rise above until she achieves the impossible and is accepted to the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Although her acceptance is a triumph, the actual experience of American college life is intimidating and unfamiliar for someone like Reyna, who is now estranged from her family and support system. Again, she finds solace in words, holding fast to her vision of becoming a writer, only to discover she knows nothing about what it takes to make a career out of a dream.
Through it all, Reyna is determined to make the impossible possible, going from undocumented immigrant of little means to “a fierce, smart, shimmering light of a writer” (Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild); a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist whose “power is growing with every book” (Luis Alberto Urrea, Pultizer Prize finalist); and a proud mother of two beautiful children who will never have to know the pain of poverty and neglect.
Told in Reyna’s exquisite, heartfelt prose, A Dream Called Home demonstrates how, by daring to pursue her dreams, Reyna was able to build the one thing she had always longed for: a home that would endure.
Reading Group Guide
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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.
- Publisher: Atria Books (October 2, 2018)
- Length: 336 pages
- ISBN13: 9781501171444
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Raves and Reviews
“Grande (The Distance Between Us) writes with strength and passion of her life’s journey….This uplifting story of fortitude and resilience looks deeply into the complexities of immigration and one woman’s struggle to adapt and thrive in America.”
– Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Candid and emotionally complex, Grande's book celebrates one woman's tenacity in the face of hardship and heartbreak while offering hope to other immigrants as they "fight to remain" and make their voices heard in a changing America. A heartfelt, inspiring, and relevant memoir."
– Kirkus Reviews
"Reyna Grande’s A Dream Called Home is a moving memoir about building a family, becoming a writer, and redefining America. Writers in need of inspiration should read this book."
– Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times bestselling author of The Sympathizer
"Reyna Grande is a fearless writer and a tireless warrior for the unrepresented and silenced. Her power is growing with every book."
– Luis Alberto Urrea, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of The Devil's Highway
"Reyna Grande’s march towards her brilliant career astonishes me. She makes seemingly-disastrous choices, but bobs and floats through as buoyant as cork. Her mistakes are familiar, but her recovery is unique. Here is a life story so unbelievable, it could only be true."
– Sandra Cisneros, bestselling author of The House on Mango Street
“Grande's engaging and frank narrative flows painlessly, leaving no stones unturned…She carries off these scenes and the accompanying interior dialogues with humor and panache.”
"When the spark of a fierce intelligence touches a soul deep and true, an entire world is born. Writers like Reyna Grande give us more than a story, more than a book, more than just a slice of their experience or their imagination; they give us a world in which to dwell, a place we can always return to when we need to make sense of the chaos that surrounds us. A Dream Called Home is such a place."
– Valeria Luiselli, award-winning author of Tell Me How It Ends
"A Dream Called Home is a deeply moving, beautifully written portrait of a young woman's journey to her own best life against the odds. Reyna Grande is a national treasure; her vision is not only singular, but essential to our contemporary culture. This is a beacon of a book."
– Carolina De Robertis, award-winning author of The Gods of Tango
Praise for The Distance Between Us
“In this poignant memoir about her childhood in Mexico, Reyna Grande skillfully depicts another side of the immigrant experience—the hardships and heartbreaks of the children who are left behind. Through her brutally honest firsthand account of growing up in Mexico without her parents, Grande sheds light on the often overlooked consequence of immigration—the disintegration of a family.”
– Sonia Nazario, Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of Enrique's Journey
Grande captivates and inspires in her memoir. She deftly evokes the searing sense of heartache and confusion. Tracing the complex and tattered relationships binding the family together, especially the bond she shared with her older sister, the author intimately probes her family’s history for clues to its disintegration. Recounting her story without self-pity, she gracefully chronicles the painful results of a family shattered by repeated separations and traumas.
– Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A brutally honest book…akin to being the Angela’s Ashes of the modern Mexican immigrant experience.”
– LA Times
“Reyna Grande is a fierce, smart, shimmering light of a writer with an important story to tell.”
– Cheryl Strayed, New York Times bestselling author of Wild
“I’ve been waiting for this book for decades. The American story of the new millennium is the story of the Latino immigrant, yet how often has the story been told by the immigrant herself? What makes Grande’s beautiful memoir all the more extraordinary is that, through this hero’s journey, she speaks for millions of immigrants whose voices have gone unheard.”
– Sandra Cisneros, bestselling author of The House on Mango Street
“Grande consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“The poignant yet triumphant tale Grande tells of her childhood and eventual illegal immigration puts a face on issues that stir vehement debate.”
– San Antonio Express News
“Eloquent, honest storytelling. This book would be fabulous required reading for college freshmen or, even better, for freshman members of Congress,”
– Washington Independent Review of Books
“An important piece of America’s immigrant history.”
“Grande never flinches in describing her surroundings and feelings, while her resilience and ability to empathize allow her to look back with a compassion that makes this story one that everyone should read.”
– School Library Journal
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- Book Cover Image (jpg): A Dream Called Home eBook 9781501171444
- Author Photo (jpg): Reyna Grande Photograph by Imran Chaudhry(0.1 MB)
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