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Rochester Reads 2018: The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande

Rochester, NY: Writers & Books is excited to announce The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande as the selection for the 2018 Rochester Reads program. Grande will be in residence doing readings, book signings and other appearances at local libraries, colleges and senior centers in Rochester and throughout the region March 28 through March 30, 2018.


In the 2012 memoir The Distance Between Us, Reyna Grande shares the complex experiences of her life, from her childhood in Mexico, through her illegal immigration to the US in pursuit of a better life, to her success as a student and author. This inspirational coming-of-age story follows Reyna and her family from the time her father went north alone—leaving two-year-old Reyna, her siblings, and their mother in Mexico. When her mother joined him two years later, the children were left living in poverty with a negligent grandmother in rural Mexico. When Reyna was 10, she and some of her family crossed the border. The story continues as Reyna and her siblings navigate the complexities of living as undocumented immigrants as well as the ravages of alcoholism—with Reyna ultimately being the first in her family to earn a college degree.


Remember that you can help support your community litereary center by purchasing your book directly from us! Copies of The Distance Between Us are available for purchase at Writers & Books. From September 26 to October 31 recieve 20% off your book purchase! Discount also offered to book clubs and bulk orders of 10 books or more through Writers & Books only.

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Reyna Grande is an award-winning memoirist and novelist. Her first novel, Across a Hundred Mountains (2006), won the American Book Award and the El Premio Aztlán Literary Prize. Her second novel, Dancing with Butterflies (2009), won the 2010 International Latino Book Award. Her 2012 memoir, The Distance Between Us, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Awards for Autobiography. In 2015, Grande received the Luis Leal Award for Distinction in Chicano/Latino Literature.


After crossing the Mexico/US border and living as an undocumented immigrant, Reyna became the first in her family to graduate from college, and later she earned an MFA in Creative Writing. Reyna is a member of the Macondo Writers’ Workshop, which was founded by Sandra Cisneros, and is at work on a sequel to The Distance Between Us. She travels widely with her books and is also a popular motivational speaker.


For more information, visit


For more information on the Rochester Reads program, contact Rochester Reads Coordinator, Karen vanMeenen, at




“Reyna Grande is a fierce, smart, shimmering light of a writer with an important story to tell.”
–Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

“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, author of The House on Mango Street

“A timely and a vivid example of how poverty and immigration can destroy a family.”
The Daily Beast

“A brutally honest book… the “Angela’s Ashes” of the modern Mexican immigrant experience.” –Los Angeles Times


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Finding the Music in Each Moment by Deb Sperling

My junior year at Oberlin College, I took a class in music technology. Our “classroom” was a tiny sound-studio in the basement of the conservatory building. We called our professor “Tom.” On the first day of class, Tom asked us to grab our notebooks and pens and leave everything else behind. We were going on a field trip, and we had one assignment: to write down every sound we heard.

Tom led us under a series of clanging pipes, up an echo-y flight of stairs, through a busy lobby buzzing with students’ chatter, into a hallway of practice rooms where piccolos trilled and tubas oom-pah-pah’d. Our last stop was just outside the building: a breezy patch of grass and trees, where birds chirped and traffic rumbled by.

Back in the studio, we compared notes: one student had heard an aria in a woman’s laugh; another had felt the rhythmic baseline of cars over a speed bump; a third had noticed the overtones in the flush of a toilet. All of us had discovered as much beauty in the mundane noises of life as we had found in any “real” instrument.

I never heard the world in the same way again.

When I started teaching, I knew I wanted to work with adults, and I knew what my mission would be: to awaken that same kind of awareness in as many of my students as I could. I wanted to renew their sense of childlike wonder, and help them approach their lives and their writing with a greater sense of openness and curiosity.

In my writing classes, I ask my students to daydream and dawdle and lollygag. I want them to treat the world as their playground, exploring every corner and crevice, and noticing not just every sound, but every sight, smell, taste, and texture. These tiny details help breathe new magic into their work. When writers learn to truly pay attention to the richness of the present moment, they begin to fill their stories of the past, the future, and the imaginary with vivid new colors.

And of course, in my classes, coloring outside the lines is highly encouraged.


Deb Sperling graduated from Oberlin College in 2008 with a BA in Politics and no clue what to do with her life. Since then, she has worked as an administrative assistant, a journalist, an editor, a tabloid reporter, a café supervisor, an ESL teacher, a giant dancing box of popcorn, and a transporter of human remains. Deb has lived and traveled extensively in South America, where she recently had two near-death experiences and a life-saving emergency surgery. She is currently working on a memoir linking her encounters with corpses in the funeral industry to the struggles she has faced with her own body.

Deb Sperling’s workshop, The Writer’s Playground, starts October 5