Seeing Immigration Through a Child’s Eyes

This week’s California Book Club newsletter: Get ready for Reyna Grande, all hail Maya Angelou, and Samin Nosrat’s favorite new cookbooks.

reyna grande
Simon and Schuster

We’ve heard a lot about U.S.-Mexican immigration in recent years. But often overlooked is the toll it takes on families separated by the border. Reyna Grande reveals this cost in her memoir The Distance Between Us, providing a rare and invaluable child’s perspective on crossing to El Otro Lado—the other side.

“This is a tremendously affecting book, a chronicle of a prototypical Californian childhood, and a reckoning with memory,” writes John Freeman in a lead-up essay to the second gathering of Alta’s California Book Club. Freeman and Grande will discuss her memoir in a virtual get-together on November 19. You can buy a copy of the book here.

As you read Grande’s book before the club gets together, you might consider these questions:

  • How do Grande’s experiences as an immigrant differ from those of people leaving Mexico today?
  • How does a child like Grande overcome not knowing English when living in the United States?
  • What are some insights you’ve had while reading about Grande’s journey?
  • Have your views about immigration changed at all in the course of your reading?

    All are welcome to join the California Book Club. And it’s free. Sign up here. | Alta

    winston salem, nc   june 21  dr maya angelou poses at the the special recognition event for dr maya angelou � the michael jackson tribute portrait at dr angelou's home june 21, 2010 in winston salem, north carolina photo by ken charnockgetty images
    Getty Images


    San Francisco will have a Maya Angelou monument after all: the city’s Arts Commission has reversed its decision to reject a design honoring the late poet. New York Times

    Read about some other people who deserve statues in San Francisco. Alta

    a handful of earth, a handful of sky, lynell george
    Angel City Press


    Lynell George channels the late Octavia E. Butler. We review A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky, George’s new book about the late science-fiction author. Alta

    keenan norris
    Akubundu Amazu-Lott


    Keenan Norris delves into the often-overlooked Inland Empire in a new essay. The Bay Area author of “One Coyote” talks with his friend and mentor, author Susan Straight. Alta

    andy hunter, bookshop
    Idris Talib Solomon


    Bookshop, an increasingly popular alternative to Amazon—and a California Book Club partner—launches in Britain. One publisher calls it “a positively revolutionary moment in the history of bookselling.” The Guardian. To order titles for the California Book Club, go to the club’s Bookshop page.

    samin nosrat


    Samin Nosrat, the Berkeley author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, recommends eight fall cookbooks—“to further distract us.” The titles cover everything from cookies to African cuisine. Twitter

    diesel, bookstore


    Diesel, A Bookstore becomes a California Book Club partner. The Southern California bookshop joins the club’s other bookstore partners: Book Soup, Vroman’s, Books Inc., and Book Passage. Alta

    the committed, viet thanh nguyen
    Grove Press


    Expect a lot of “crime and violence and drugs” in Viet Thanh Nguyen’s forthcoming novel, The Committed. The Los Angeles author’s set-in-France sequel to the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Sympathizer will also deal with race and the legacy of colonialism. Los Angeles Times

    eric idle


    Eric Idle, the actor and author, suggests that the California Book Club consider the work of Bruce Wagner. Twitter Do you have thoughts on our picks? Send them to

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    Alta’s California Book Club email newsletter is published weekly. Sign up for free AND you ALSO will receive four custom-designed bookplates.


    John McMurtrie edits for McSweeney’s Publishing and the literary travel magazine Stranger’s Guide.
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