One woman’s tale of obstacles, family loss and immigration makes its way into the Texas Wesleyan community.
On March 19, award-winning author Reyna Grande visited Texas Wesleyan to serve as the keynote speaker for the annual Faye C. Goostree Women’s Symposium.
The symposium (established in 1981) takes place every year to celebrate the success and perseverance of critically acclaimed women. It was held from noon to 2 p.m. in Martin Hall followed by a luncheon in Lou’s Place.
The focus of the symposium changes yearly to continually provide stimulating discussion. This year, Grande discussed the hardships of Mexican immigration.
Grande has written three novels inspired by her own experience migrating to the U.S. Her latest book and memoir, The Distance Between Us, was released on March 12.
Deborah Ferguson, anchor/reporter at NBC 5, introduced Grande at the symposium.
“I did read The Distance Between Us,” Ferguson said before presenting Grande. “It was a beautifully, beautifully written book.”
Grande dedicated her keynote address to her former professor and mentor, Diana Savas. Grande said it was Savas who first encouraged her to become a writer.
“This person who changed by life in many ways was my professor,” Grande said. “She is the reason I am standing here today.”
After Grande’s keynote address, she was interviewed on stage by Dianne Solis, senior writer for the Dallas Morning News. The focus of the interview was about the craft of writing.
Grande said she first began to write a memoir at age 21 but, due to the pain it inflicted, could not revisit the past long enough to write a memoir.
“Writing about that became so hard to do that my mind was completely shutting it out. I couldn’t go there,” Grande said. “So what I ended up doing was I fictionalized it and I turned a story into a novel. I created a character to stand in for me.”
This character became Juana Garcia, the protagonist in her first novel, Across a Hundred Mountains.
Grande said she wanted to write stories about Mexican immigration because she never saw any books about it growing up. When she later discovered Latino literature, she found the stories related more to the transition into American life.
“Nobody would ever talk about the families that get left behind, the children that get left behind,” Grande said. “Because I also experienced that side I wanted to acknowledge it.”
Deya Cabanas, senior education major and president of Bilingual Education Student Organization (BESO), attended the event along with all BESO officers.
Cabanas said the symposium was an inspiring event. She later went to the Texas Wesleyan bookstore and bought both of Grande’s fictional novels, Across a Hundred Mountains and Dancing with Butterflies, to better understand the immigration experience.
“I think it is an important topic for students to be aware of,” Cabanas said. “They could hear a side of the story they have not heard of before. That’s really important.”