Writers & Books recently wrapped up its 18th annual community reading program, Rochester Reads, which broke past attendance records.
This year, the organization invited Reyna Grande, author of “The Distance Between Us,” to Rochester for a three-day residency. Grande held readings of new work and led topical discussions at Central, Penfield, Palmyra, Wood and Greece libraries; Monroe Community College, Finger Lakes Community College and Rochester Institute of Technology; School of the Arts; and Valley Manor.
More than 1,400 people attended these readings, an increase of almost 500 people over 2017.
In her memoir, Grande shares the complex experiences of her life. “The Distance Between Us” takes readers from her childhood in Mexico, through her illegal immigration to the U.S. in pursuit of a better life and to her success as a student and author. This coming-of-age story follows Grande and her family as they cross the border and navigate the complexities of living as undocumented immigrants, with Grande ultimately being the first in her family to earn a college degree.
“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,” said Karen vanMeenen, coordinator of community reading programs at Writers & Books. “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 a nonprofit literary center located on University Avenue in Rochester’s Neighborhood of the Arts. It initiated the Rochester Reads program in 2001 to encourage people to connect with others in the community through reading, discussion and the shared experience of literature. Writers & Books annually selects one book for the community to explore together, leading to a residency by the author.