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Writers & Books Celebrates Record-breaking Community Reads Program

For Immediate Release

Media Contact: Chris Fanning

Director of Communications

585-473-2590 ext 104

Rochester NY: Last Friday, March 30, Writers & Books wrapped up the eighteenth year of their annual community reading program, Rochester Reads. This year the organization hosted author Reyna Grande (author of the award-winning memoir The Distance Between Us) to Rochester for a three-day residency. Grande held readings of new work and led topical discussions at various libraries (Central, Penfield, Palmyra, Wood, Greece), college campuses (MCC, FLCC, RIT), high schools (SOTA), and a senior living center (Valley Manor). This year more than 1400 people attended these readings, a significant increase of almost 500 people over last year.


In her memoir, 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 as they cross the border and navigate the complexities of living as undocumented immigrants – with Reyna ultimately being the first in her family to earn a college degree.


Karen vanMeenan, coordinator of community reading programs at Writers & Books, spoke about the impact of picking Grande’s book:

“When I first read The Distance Between Us I, of course, recognized its value as a moving coming-of-age story and a beautifully crafted narrative. As I thought more about the recent conversations and the reignited controversies dividing people across our country, I knew this book was important—that if we selected it for Rochester Reads, it could spark crucial dialogue and bring people together. I knew it was the right book at the right time. And the response was indeed extraordinary. We had record crowds at every venue with audiences interested in the author’s experience, her family story, and the implications of continuing policies and rhetoric regarding undocumented people in this country. Reyna Grande captivated our audiences with her engaging presentations and presence, openly sharing her story and inspiring others to do so.”


Writers & Books is Rochester’s nationally renowned non-profit literary center located at 740 University Avenue, in the heart of Rochester’s Neighborhood of the Arts. In 2001, Writers & Books initiated the Rochester Reads program. The program seeks to encourage people to connect to others in our community through reading and discussion, and through the shared experience of literature. Each year Writers & Books selects one book for our community to explore together, leading to a residency by the author.