There are several stories of immigrants who left the country where they were born, grew up and many even built a family to try on American soil to start a new life in search of better opportunities. Reyna Grande immigrant, Latin, and author of A Dream Called Home, tell her similar story throughout the book. At nine years of age, the author crossed the US-Mexico border in an attempt to reunite again with her parents who left her years ago in the quest to give a better life for the whole family. Reyna always had the dream of entering university, and her passion for reading and writing drove her to turn the dream of becoming a renowned writer in every country into reality. Despite the difficulties of being raised in a not very healthy family environment with an absent mother and an alcoholic and abusive father, the author has always been willing to pursue her goals. In a somewhat troubled childhood and adolescence context, these difficulties should directly affect the choices Reyna will make during her life. Because all these tribulations at many times make her feel insecure and find it difficult to accept.
Her life story is fascinating because even with minimal resources and without the support of her family, she succeeds through her passion for reading to be accepted at the University of Santa Cruz in California. Although the first step was successfully taken, the particular experience of the life of an immigrant university student is intimidating and so far unknown. Reyna was not afraid of not knowing how to be a university student, as the previous years she attended community college prepared her very well for this. She feared that the distance from her family would further damage the relationship between them, which was no longer the best. She was afraid of not fitting in and not having the chance to make this new home a place that she really belonged and was accepted by everyone.
In a passage from the book, Reyna argues that “My peers had brought their families to celebrate the beginning of their journey as university students. I thought of the Mexican saying Sin padre ni Madre, ni perro que I am. Without a father, without a mother, without a dog to bark at me” (Grande, 8). This passage from the book made me better understand the feeling of loneliness that she was at that moment. The size of the importance for Reyna that her family was present there, giving any kind of support even in a simple gesture of just saying good luck. The fact that her parents left her behind in her grandmother’s care while still in Mexico, when they decided to come to the United States first brought irreversible trauma to the author. Reyna feared that her parents would forget her or replace her with other children born on this side of the border. She feared she could never have a real family and a home to call her own. Facts that show us how the difficulties she had faced in the past, directly affected her choices in the present. But there at that moment, even though she was unsure, we noticed her first attitude in believing in herself. When she recalls the countless sacrifices, her father had made to bring the whole family to the United States, in the quest to make the American dream a reality. Her family completely shattered was the biggest price everyone faced for Reyna to be there. It was time then to take a deep breath, not to be afraid. That was the first pass for his restart.
Reyna told not only her life story but the story of thousands of people who migrate to other countries every day in search of new opportunities. At such a critical time for immigration policy in the United States, Grande became an important public voice for Mexican Americans and immigrants of all backgrounds through his book. The author was very brave in opening the story not only of her family to the world but mainly her story in particular. He showed everyone that the difficulties faced by immigrants are always there, the society that sometimes refuses to see. Reyna has always been ashamed of herself for not feeling completely connected to either culture, American or Mexican. The first impact we can notice from this was when she arrived at her new apartment on the university campus and she met Carolyn who naturally asked where Reyna came from. The author explains, “I’ve come from L.A., but I’m originally from Mexico, I said. It was my way of admitting that I wasn’t from here. Yes, I’m a foreigner, and everything from my brown skin to my accent to my Mexican birth certificate prevents me from laying claim to the U.S. even though I have a green card that gives me permission to be here” (Grande, 12). Although Reyna completely mastered the language of the United States and came here as a child, she felt like a fish out of water at that university attended basically by white students. She took a long time to understand that the fact of carrying both cultures, made the author even more special. Grande could be considered bicultural, bilingual, and binational. When I finished reading myself, I felt a little like Reyna and I identified my story with hers. I am also an immigrant in a country of opportunity looking for a better life away from the people I love. I’ve faced, I am facing and I know that I will still face several difficulties such as prejudice, loneliness, and that desire that many times all I want is to give up everything. We know the difficulties that immigrants face and the whole process becomes even more complicated when you are alone. Reyna knew that her father was not such a simple person to deal with, but all the while she tried to make him proud of the choices she was making. Grande never failed to value his family and never forgot his origins. This whole process I am sure was very painful and left marks that she will carry for the rest of her life, but I am also sure that it was this process of struggle that made her grow and mature and believe even more in her own ability. My mother always tells me that if I don’t chase my own dreams, no one will ever be able to do it for me. This is what Reyna Grande did.
We all have dreams and also different realities and that makes the interaction between people so curious and sensational. Throughout the book, we noticed that Grande’s dreams were different from her brothers’ dreams, and at many times she had difficulty understanding this. Her dream was to enter university and become a successful writer, but her sister Mago’s dream, for example, might be completely different. And it wasn’t Reyna’s role to judge her sister by her choices. It was very interesting how in the course of the book we realized that the dreams of so many completely different characters end up intersecting in a curious way. In my opinion, Reyna’s biggest frustration was trying to solve everyone’s problem and wish everyone to make the same decisions as she did. Even her sister Beth she brought from Mexico to live in California and tried several times to chart a different destination for her sister. Reyna argues with Beth, “One day,” I said to her, “We can both be college graduates, accomplished career women capable of taking care of our own needs and fulfilling our own desires” (Grande, 73). But maybe that wasn’t Beth’s real desire and then her life takes a completely different turn than Reyna had imagined. The absence of growing up in a healthy family environment and all the difficulties Reyna faced as a child made her wants to assume for her brothers the role of sister, mother, father, and friend. But in the end, she was the one who also needed help and a lot was out of her control.
The impact on Reyna’s life of an abusive father, an absent mother, the difficulty of cultural assimilation among other factors, brought more than the classic insecurity. They also brought the fear that is so difficult to overcome and that directly impacted the decisions that the author was making throughout her history. The family is our first contact with the social world and, if this context does not nourish our essential needs, the impact can be constant throughout our life cycle. I believe that the environment around us, including our family, friends, coworkers, and others, has a strong influence on our lives, but it is our attitudes that write our destiny. We are solely responsible for the life we have. To blame others for what happens to us is to cultivate illusion. The learning is ours and nobody can do it for us any more than we can do it for others. Once we learn this, we will suffer less. Believe in yourself, be grateful, understand bad experiences like learning, forgive, move on and try to improve each day. Reyna wrote her destiny, learned from her story, made her dream come true, and, through this book, she taught us that we can and should do the same. Just believe.