Award-winning novelist Reyna Grande spoke about her books, life and immigration at several events on campus this Tuesday and Wednesday.
Grande has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and a master’s of fine arts degree. In addition to being a novelist, she also teaches creative writing at UCLA Extension. Grande travels the country giving lectures at colleges on her novels and memoirs, as well as on the issues of immigration and the struggles she went through to obtain the level of education she has now.
Originally from Mexico, Grande entered the country illegally to be with her father in the United States at the age of 10. She struggled through all the obstacles that come with being an illegal immigrant and overcame them, becoming the first person in her family to graduate from college.
According to Beverly Lapp, professor of music, Grande was chosen as a guest lecturer in part to accompany her novel, “The Distance Between Us,” that ICC classes are reading this semester. Grande’s memoir of her time in Mexico and crossing the border fits the ICC themes of identity, culture and community, which made it perfect for the class.
“We want to provide context for the stories we read and there’s nothing like meeting the author to do that,” Lapp said. “Her journey is an important reminder of what a privilege higher education is. It shouldn’t be taken for granted and her story helps us appreciate it in a new way.”
Lapp believes that stories like Grande’s are important for the Goshen College campus to hear because they are relatable to many students on campus. Many students, both international and domestic, faced great struggles to get where they are today. According to Lapp, the students and faculty on campus “can get to know their cohorts better by one story” being told. “We get caught up in lots of social issues and have important discussions about them, but we don’t have as many conversations about international issues like immigration.”
Grande’s presentation Tuesday was about the broader public issue of immigration and policy. Her lecture Wednesday to the ICC class was focused mainly on the book and her experiences and reasoning. The lecture at convocation was entitled “Against All Odds,” and reflected on the odds she had to face to get a college degree.
Issues like immigration have been a recent theme in convocations and guest lecturers. According to Lapp, these patterns are not necessarily on purpose, but they are a reflection of what is going on in the world. They also fit this year’s campus focus of Global Citizenship.