From Immigrant to Published Writer

Teresa Alcantar, Staff Writer

On Friday, Nov. 16, the Kern County Library, in collaboration with CSU Bakersfield, held their annual evening with the author as part of the One Book Project. This year’s featured author was Reyna Grande, and her memoir “A Dream Called Home” tells the story of Grande’s journey from a Mexican immigrant to a college-educated published writer. 

Headshot image of published writer Reyna Grande.

The One Book Project is meant as a “community-wide reading and discussion project inviting everyone to read and discuss the themes of immigration and assimilation,” states the Kern County library website. The program also strives to “pull a community together, cross cultural divides, and enhance understanding of our diversity,” states CSUB.

The event was a free webinar open to the public streamed live on Facebook and Zoom, which included a short talk by Grande about her motivation for writing followed by a question-and-answer section with pre-written questions sent in by those participating in the One Book Program.  

Cover art of Reyna Grande’s A Dream Called Home.

A main theme of the webinar was Grande’s duty as an immigrant writer to tell her story for those who never got the chance to do so. That way, immigrant stories can be read and understood by the public.  

“As a writer, we really do transform, and we really do build bridges with the words that we write, and we tear down walls too with our stories,” stated Grande in response to the question, “Do you feel satisfied with the voice you’ve given to undocumented immigrants?” 

As an immigrant from a broken home, Grande discussed how she had always longed for a loving home and how she discovered that every story she wrote was a portable home she could take with her anywhere. When writing “A Dream Called Home” and her other memoirs, Grande embraced her vulnerability, and through this, she found empowerment by standing in her truth.  

Grande writes to tell her story while understanding the privilege she has been given as a Mexican immigrant now an American citizen and how if she had not immigrated when she had, she could have been “detained, deported, disappeared or dead,” stated Grande. This is why she has continued to advocate for Latino and Latina literature and writers in the predominantly white publishing world.  

Towards the end of the webinar, Grande gave some advice to first-generation college students saying that they are the pioneers venturing into the unknown, which takes a lot of courage.  

“It’s scary, but it’s also beautiful cause you’re making history in your family, and you know after this, it’s never gonna be the same again, and it’s gonna be beautiful,” stated Grande. 

Grande encourages listeners to stay focused on their goals and get up when they fall because they are the ones that have to make it all worth it.  

“You’re gonna fall down many times, but don’t stay on the ground. You gotta keep getting up and you gotta keep striving and working hard, and that’s how you make it worth it because then you get to a place where you really love who you are, and you really love the life that you have,” stated Grande.   

Grande is continuing to write, dipping her toe into the historical fiction genre with her newest work, “A Ballad of Love and Glory,” set to release on March 15, 2022, which takes place during the Mexican-American war.