The Distance Between Us

The Distance Between Us

by

Reyna Grande

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Reyna Grande Rodriguez Character Analysis

Reyna, the author and protagonist of the book, is a sensitive, imaginative, and introspective child whose harsh upbringing in poor and rural Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico forms a foundation of poverty, abuse, and abandonment that she spends her entire adolescence trying to rise above. After her parents both travel illegally to the United States for work, leaving Reyna and her siblings in the care of their cruel Abuela Evila, Reyna is subject to indignity upon indignity and a seemingly endless spiral of abuse and neglect. When her father Natalio returns and offers to take her and her siblings back to America with him to live in “El Otro Lado”—on “the other side”—Reyna believes that all her dreams of happiness and comfort are about to come true. In Los Angeles, however, the grass is not necessarily greener; Reyna has escaped the rural poverty of her youth and the miserable household of her father’s mother, but now finds herself in close quarters with a father whose alcoholism, violence, and need for control have made him into a veritable stranger. As Reyna and her siblings Mago and Carlos navigate their adolescence, they struggle to heal the wounds of their past—wounds left by their parents’ abandonment, their grandmother’s cruelty, and the trauma of their dangerous childhoods—while making a future for themselves in the face of continued adversity. As she grows older, Reyna finds outlets for self-expression through music and creative writing, and, with the help of her community college mentor Diana Savas, at last discovers her voice and potential as an author. Reyna ultimately goes on to graduate college, becoming the first member of her family to do so. As the memoir ends on a hopeful note, Reyna expresses the resilient faith she has in her family—and all families like hers—to rise above their past and carve out a better future for themselves and one another.

Reyna Grande Rodriguez Quotes in The Distance Between Us

The The Distance Between Us quotes below are all either spoken by Reyna Grande Rodriguez or refer to Reyna Grande Rodriguez . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Washington Square Press edition of The Distance Between Us published in 2012.
Book One: Chapter 2 Quotes

"What did you see?" I asked her. "'Who was that in the alley?"

"It was a man, a man on a horse," Mago whispered. The clop-clopping of the hooves grew fainter and fainter.

"So?" Carlos said.

"But he was dragging something behind him in a sack!"

"You're lying," Carlos said.

"I'm not, I swear I'm not," Mago insisted. "I swear I saw him drag a person away."

"We don’t believe you," Carlos said again. "Right, Reyna?" I nodded, but none of us could fall back to sleep.

"That's the devil making his rounds," Abuela Evila said the next morning when we told her what Mago had seen. "He's looking for all the naughty children to take back to Hell with him. So you three better behave, or the devil is going to take you away."

Mago told us not to believe anything Abuela Evila said. But at night, we huddled together even closer when we heard a horse pass by our window the sound of its hooves sending chills up our spines. Who would protect us if the devil came to steal us and take us far away where we would never see our parents again? I wondered. Every night, I would bury my face in my pillow and hold on tight to my sister.

Related Characters: Reyna Grande Rodriguez (speaker), Mago Grande Rodriguez (speaker), Carlos Grande Rodriguez (speaker), Abuela Evila (speaker)
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

Mago and I sat on the dirt floor, and she told me about the day I was born exactly the way Mami used to tell it. She pointed to the circle of rocks and a pile of ash and told me that during my birth, a fire had been on while Mami had squatted on the ground, over a straw mat, grabbing the rope hanging from the ceiling. When I was born, the midwife put me into my mother's arms. She turned to face the fire so that the heat would keep me warm. As I listened to Mago, I closed my eyes and felt the heat of the flames, and I heard Mami's heart beating against my ear.

Mago pointed to a spot on the dirt floor and reminded me that my umbilical cord was buried there. That way, Mami told the midwife, no matter where life takes her, she won't ever forget where she came from.

But then Mago touched my belly button and added something to the story my mother had never told me. She said that my umbilical cord was like a ribbon that connected me to Mami. She said, "It doesn’t matter that there's a distance between us now. That cord is there forever." I touched my belly button and thought about what my sister had said. I had Papi's photo to keep me connected to him. I had no photo of my mother, but now my sister had given me something to remember her by.

Page Number: 21-22
Explanation and Analysis:

Don Bartolo took my grandmother's coin from his pocket and handed it to me. "Don't ever think that your parents don't love you," he said. "It is because they love you very much that they have left."

As I walked home with the needle for my grandmother, I told myself that maybe Don Bartolo was right. I had to keep on believing my parents left me because they loved me too much and not because they didn't love me enough.

Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:
Book One: Chapter 5 Quotes

[Tía María Félix] left in the afternoon with little Javier. She promised Élida that one day soon she would send for her, and although she did eventually keep her promise, Élida had to stay behind for now and watch a taxicab take her mother away. Abuela Evila put her arm around Elida and held her while she cried. Elida buried her face in Abuela Evila's arms. It was so strange to see her crying. The ever-present mocking gaze was gone. The Élida that made fun of us, that laughed at us, that called us Los Huerfanitos, had been replaced by a weeping, lonely, heartbroken girl.

Mago grabbed our hands and took us to the backyard to give Élida privacy. "Los quiero mucho," she said, pulling us close to her. Then I realized how lucky Mago, Carlos, and I were. We at least had each other. Élida was on her own.

Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:
Book One: Chapter 7 Quotes

Part of me was desperate to wear those shoes. They were new. They had been sent to us by our parents. They were from El Otro Lado! But then I thought about my parents, and the fact that they didn't even know what size shoe I wore made me want to throw them in the trash.

If they don't even know something as basic as the size of our shoes and clothes, what else don't they know about us? And what don't we know about them?

The question was there, but neither Carlos, Mago, nor I was courageous enough to ponder on it for long. As the oldest, it was clearer to Mago, more than to Carlos and me, that the distance between us and our parents was destroying our relationship more than any of us could have imagined.

Page Number: 56-57
Explanation and Analysis:
Book One: Chapter 10 Quotes

"Do you miss her?" I asked.

Mago glanced at the mountain one more time and then jumped off the track-changer. "Who, Mami? But she's back," she said. “And why were you crying?"

I started crying again. I didn't know why I still felt that familiar emptiness inside when I looked at the Mountain That Has a Headache even though my mother was back.

Carlos came over to us, smiling and pointing toward the house. "Can you believe she's here?" He took a deep breath and said, “Finally, everything is going to go back to how it was before she left."

Mami stood at the door and told us to come inside. As I looked at her in the doorway, beckoning us to come in, I knew why the emptiness and the yearning were still there. Carlos was wrong.

The woman standing there wasn't the same woman who had left.

Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:
Book One: Chapter 11 Quotes

Out of all of us, Mago was the only one who harbored any hope that Papi would not forsake us. My mother's broken promise—that she'd be gone only a year—had caused a rift between them, so Mago's loyalty to my father remained strong. He had been gone for so long that in his absence he had become bigger than life in Mago's eyes. But regardless of how much she had changed, I was too happy to have my mother back to cling to the hope of seeing my father again. And I was angry at him. I didn't have a single memory of him and Mami together—of all of us together—and I felt cheated out of the family I yearned to have. Why did he have to go and fall in love with someone else? I wanted to know. Hadn't Mami always done what he had asked of her? Hadn't it been enough that she had followed him to El Otro Lado and left us behind?

Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:
Book One: Chapter 14 Quotes

They hung Catalina by her feet so that the river would drain out of her. We all kneeled and prayed, and not once did I take my eyes off my cousin's bloated body, and I shuddered at seeing her like that, hanging by her feet, like the chickens at the meat section in el mercado, just as cold and lifeless. I was gripped with a fear so great, it made my stomach churn. What if something happened to me, Mago, Carlos, or Betty? What if, by the time Papi finishes his dream house, there’s no one left for him to keep safe? Or what if he never finishes it, what if he never returns, and we are left here to face the wolf all on our own?

Related Symbols: Catalina
Page Number: 110-111
Explanation and Analysis:
Book One: Chapter 19 Quotes

"Go say hello to your father." Tía Emperatriz came up from behind us and pushed us toward him. I didn't want to go. All I wanted was to run away, run back to Abuelita Chinta's house, far away from him. I didn't want to see that look on his face. All those years staring at his photo, wishing that his eyes were not looking to the left but instead were looking at me. All those years wishing to be seen by him. And here he was, looking at me, but not really seeing me. He couldn't see past the tangled hair, the dirt on my face, my tattered clothes. He couldn't see the girl who had longed so much for this moment, to finally meet her father.

Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:
Book Two: Chapter 1 Quotes

I wanted to make my father proud. It still bothered me—as it would for many years—that my father had not wanted to bring me at first, and because of that I had a desperate desire for him to one day say, "Chata, you've made me a proud father. I'm so glad I didn't leave you in Mexico and instead brought you here."

I felt as if I owed him something, as if there was a debt that needed to be repaid. The way I could pay it back was to make him proud of my accomplishments, because they would be his accomplishments, too. Even now there are times when I think back on that moment when I begged my father to bring me to this country and the knowledge that he could have said no still haunts me. What would my life have been like then? I know the answer all too well.

Related Characters: Reyna Grande Rodriguez (speaker), Papi / Natalio Grande
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:
Book Two: Chapter 4 Quotes

Papi went back into his room with his beer, and while Mago helped me clean up in the bathroom, Mila made me scrambled eggs, even though I told her I wasn't hungry. Now I would have to eat the eggs because Papi would beat me for sure if I didn't eat Mila's food for the second time that night. As I showered, I cried and thought about my sweet grandmother. She would never have dumped a plate of food on my head. And I wouldn't have had to tell her why I couldn't eat the spaghetti. She would have known why right away. I thought about the Man Behind the Glass. He, too, wouldn't have dumped the spaghetti on my head because he was with me all those years, and he had listened to me tell him about my fears and my dreams. But the father in this house didn't know me. He didn't know me at all.

And I didn't know him.

Page Number: 191
Explanation and Analysis:
Book Two: Chapter 8 Quotes

Back then we hadn't known where in Los Angeles Tía María Félix lived, and even if we had known, we probably wouldn't have gone to visit Élida. We just didn't have that kind of relationship with our cousin. My father wasn't close to his sister, either, and he never talked about visiting Tía María Félix, and for years we knew nothing about her. It wasn’t until he was in stage four of his cancer that he and Tía María Félix were finally reunited. My aunt would visit him daily, and they would spend hours reminiscing about times gone by and lamenting their broken relationships with their children. While my siblings and I had been struggling to overcome the gap that was created between us and our father when he'd left us behind, Élida had been doing the same thing with her mother. And like us, they had also failed to repair their relationship.

Immigration took a toll on us all.

Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:
Book Two: Chapter 10 Quotes

Tía Güera had decided to leave her no-good husband and try her luck in this country. Mami was taking that as an opportunity to bring Betty here. So Tia Güera and Betty would both be making the long journey north together. The only thing was, Tia Güera said, that she would have to leave her own daughter behind with Abuelita Chinta. It made me sad to think of my cousin Lupita, of how now she was the one being abandoned, and I hoped that one day the cycle of leaving children behind would end.

Page Number: 222
Explanation and Analysis:
Book Two: Chapter 11 Quotes

Papi was amazed. He asked me to play something. Mago rolled her eyes at me and left us alone. I took the sax from him and played the scale Mr. Adams had taught me, except I didn’t remember it that well. But Papi didn't criticize me for messing up. Instead he said, "You know, when I was in third grade, my teacher brought some drums to class and started to teach us how to play them. We couldn't take them home, but still, it was nice coming to school and having the chance to learn to play an instrument. I hoped to join the color guard when I got to sixth grade. But a few weeks later, when I turned nine, your grandfather said I was old enough to join him at the fields, and he pulled me out of school' I never got to play the drum again. And I've been working ever since."

Papi got up and headed to the refrigerator where he took out a Budweiser. Then he went into his room. I sat in the living room to practice my sax, but Mago and Carlos complained about the noise and sent me outside. I went to the yard and continued to practice, and I played with all my heart, for myself and for my papi, who never got another chance to play anything.

Related Symbols: Reyna’s Alto Sax
Page Number: 233
Explanation and Analysis:
Book Two: Chapter 15 Quotes

When my father beat me, and in his drunken stupor called me a pendeja and an hija de la chingada, I held on to the vision of the future he had given me during his sober moments. I thought about that vision when the blows came, because the father who beat me, the one who preferred to stay home and drink rather than to attend my band concerts or parent-teacher conferences, wasn't the same father who told me that one day I would be somebody in this country. That much I knew.

Related Characters: Reyna Grande Rodriguez (speaker), Papi / Natalio Grande
Page Number: 250
Explanation and Analysis:

We understood what Papi must have gone through because we knew what Abuela Evila and Abuelo Augurio were like. But that didn't make us feel better. If Papi knew what it felt like to be abused by his parents, then shouldn't he understand how we felt? Shouldn't he try to be a better father? Also, it wasn't our fault that his own family had turned their backs on him, even going as far as stealing the house he worked so hard to build. So why take it out on us? Why take out all his frustrations and disappointments on us?

"I came back for you, didn't I?" he said to us sometimes when we would speak up.

Then we would shut up and lower our heads, and we would continue to take his beatings. Even the time he punched me in the nose so hard it broke, as I watched the drops of blood landing on my tennis shoe, I told myself that maybe he was right. We shouldn't expect anything better from him. He didn't forget us, after all. We were here because of him. I was in this country because of him. I begged him to bring me. I got what I wanted, after all. How could I complain now, simply because things weren't all that we had hoped for?

Page Number: 256
Explanation and Analysis:
Book Two: Chapter 19 Quotes

I didn't know why I was so angry at my sister. How could she just sever the ties that bind us to this place, to these childhood friends of ours who weren’t able to escape this poverty like we did? I was so angry at her for quitting college and ruining her chances for a successful life. Now I realized that we owed it to them, our cousins, our friends, to do something with our lives. If not for us, then for them, because they would never be able to. I understood so clearly now why Papi said there were so many people who would die to have the opportunities we had, who would kill to get their hands on a green card. Mago's and Carlos's refusal to see that angered me more than anything.

Page Number: 282
Explanation and Analysis:
Book Two: Chapter 21 Quotes

When [Papi] came home, I didn’t hide in my bedroom. Instead, I went out to the kitchen and said, "Tomorrow I'm going to Pasadena City College to enroll." I waited for him to say no. I was ready for a fight. Bur my father looked at me, and whatever he saw in my eyes made him keep quiet. I turned around, and as I headed back to my room, he started to talk.

"You know, Chata, when my father took me to the fields to work, my job was to guide the oxen in a straight line. My father gave me a rod and said that if the oxen didn't listen to me, to hit them as hard as I could. I was nine years old, Chata. Do you understand?"

I took a deep breath, unable to say anything. I wanted to say something. I was still too angry to forgive all that he had done to me, but I wanted to understand what he was trying to tell me. But too soon, he had turned away from me. Too soon, he was opening the refrigerator door, taking out a Budweiser, and I knew that the father who had spoken just a minute ago was gone.

Related Characters: Reyna Grande Rodriguez (speaker), Papi / Natalio Grande (speaker), Abuelo Augurio
Page Number: 298
Explanation and Analysis:
Book Two: Chapter 23 Quotes

Carlos and Mago were furious about what our father had done.

Carlos said, "I spent all that time helping him with the lawyer, defending him from Mila and her restraining orders, for what? So that he could just betray us like this?"

"I'm never speaking to him again," Mago said. "He used us. He just wanted us around because he was lonely and depressed, and now that he has her back he doesn’t need us!" Once again, we were orphans.

I thought about the border that separates the United States and Mexico. I wondered if during their crossing, both my father and mother had lost themselves in that no-man's-land. I wondered if my real parents were still there, caught between two worlds. I imagined them trying to make their way back to us. I truly hoped that one day they would.

Page Number: 315
Explanation and Analysis:
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Reyna Grande Rodriguez Character Timeline in The Distance Between Us

The timeline below shows where the character Reyna Grande Rodriguez appears in The Distance Between Us. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book One: Prologue
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When Reyna Grande was small, her father’s mother, Abuela Evila, liked to scare her and her siblings,... (full context)
Book One: Chapter 1
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It is January of 1980, and Reyna’s mother is preparing to leave on a trip to El Otro Lado. Mami, an Avon... (full context)
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Reyna’s Mami ushers Reyna, Mago, and Carlos out of the house they’ve been renting—the children are... (full context)
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Reyna, now four, was only two years old when her father left for the United States... (full context)
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...with the “angry” Evila and instead ask to stay with Mami’s mother, Abuelita Chinta, but Reyna doesn’t want to stay with either grandmother—she only wants her mother, and begins asking to... (full context)
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Mami tells Reyna to stop whining and calls out from the gate for Abuela Evila. As Evila emerges... (full context)
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Reyna, Mago, and Carlos beg their mother one last time to stay behind, insisting that they... (full context)
Book One: Chapter 2
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Mago, Carlos, and Reyna endure difficult treatment at their Abuela Evila’s. They are made to sleep on a straw... (full context)
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...children are forced to eat scraps and leftovers. When Evila prepares porkchops, rice, and beans, Reyna and her siblings eat burnt beans drizzled in leftover oil while Élida gets to pick... (full context)
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One afternoon, when Evila sends Reyna out to go buy a needle, two little girls (the daughter of the storekeeper Don... (full context)
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On the way back out, Mago takes Reyna back to their old house instead of to the shop, urging her to hold onto... (full context)
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Mago takes Reyna back up to the house, but Reyna is afraid that Evila will beat her if... (full context)
Book One: Chapter 3
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Mago, Carlos, and Reyna grow jealous and resentful of their cousin Élida, who is their grandmother’s favorite. Evila washes... (full context)
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...Élida is lying in the sun and letting her hair dry while, nearby, Mago and Reyna scrub their dirty clothes in the wash basin. She looks over and tells the girls... (full context)
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...Élida starts her taunts up again, bragging that her own mother writes her letters while Reyna and Mago’s mother writes them none. Mago sweeps a cloud of dust towards Élida, and... (full context)
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...her to pour kerosene on the children’s heads one by one. After combing kerosene through Reyna, Mago, and Carlos’s hair, she sends them off to bed, where they lie awake all... (full context)
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The following day, the lice remain, and Evila enlists Augurio to shave the children’s heads. Reyna weeps as her grandfather cuts off her beautiful curls. Once the haircut is over, Reyna... (full context)
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That night, Reyna dreams wistfully of her mother washing her own hair with lemon water. In the middle... (full context)
Book One: Chapter 4
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By June of 1980, Reyna and her siblings have been living at Abuela Evila’s house for six months. They have... (full context)
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...are each allowed to talk for two minutes. One night on the phone, Mami tells Reyna and her siblings some news: she is going to have a baby. That night, Mago... (full context)
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The next day, Mago is despondent. She pulls out a world map and shows Reyna the distance between them and their parents on it. When Reyna reminds Mago of what... (full context)
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...sons with her, and dotes on them as she goes about her errands. Mago and Reyna become jealous of the boys, and when Paula suggests all the children play together, Mago... (full context)
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When the boys run back to their mother smelling of feces, Paula chastises Mago and Reyna, but they have already started running away. They climb up into a tree and hide... (full context)
Book One: Chapter 5
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A month later, on September 7th, Reyna turns five, but because Mago’s birthday is a month and a half later, Reyna is... (full context)
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The one who does come back is Élida’s mother, María Félix. Reyna and her siblings have been at Abuela Evila’s house for over a year when Élida... (full context)
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The next day, the entire family—including all of Reyna’s cousins—shows up at the house to receive gifts María Félix has brought from El Otro... (full context)
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Preparations for Élida’s quinceañera begin, and Reyna and her siblings are put to work making decorations for the party. Evila reluctantly makes... (full context)
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That night at the party, Reyna watches Élida dance the waltz meant to be danced with one’s father with a butcher... (full context)
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...one day she will send for her. Abuela Evila comforts Élida as she cries, and Reyna observes how strange it is to see her cousin so emotional. For once, Élida’s “ever-present... (full context)
Book One: Chapter 6
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Soon, it is Reyna’s first day of first grade. She is excited to finally be in school with her... (full context)
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In class, Reyna learns to write her name. When she uses her left hand to write, though, she... (full context)
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At lunchtime, Reyna meets up with Mago and Carlos. They watch as their classmates buy food from women... (full context)
Book One: Chapter 7
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Mago brings the box inside and she, Carlos, and Reyna tear it open. It is filled with clothes and shoes for all three of them,... (full context)
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Mago, Carlos, and Reyna decide to wear the ill-fitting clothes and shoes anyway, and they set off to run... (full context)
Book One: Chapter 8
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Four years after Reyna’s Papi left for the United States—and two years after her Mami left, too—construction at last... (full context)
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As construction continues, Reyna and her siblings pitch in and help the bricklayers. They are tired and sore at... (full context)
Book One: Chapter 9
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One night, Reyna wakes up screaming and in pain—she recognizes the feeling as a scorpion bite. Mago runs... (full context)
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In the morning, Reyna is worse. She is dizzy and nauseous, and Emperatriz begs Evila to take Reyna to... (full context)
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On mother’s day, Reyna’s class makes arts and crafts to give as gifts to their mothers. On the walk... (full context)
Book One: Chapter 10
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One afternoon, Mago, Carlos, and Reyna hurry to carry water home from the town well—Emperatriz has promised to take them to... (full context)
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...fewer mouths to feed at last. The children gather their things and say goodbye to Emperatriz—Reyna almost forgets her framed photo of Papi, and runs inside to retrieve “the Man Behind... (full context)
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Reyna, Mago, and Carlos travel by taxi with their mother to Abuelita Chinta’s house, a bamboo... (full context)
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Reyna cares for her little sister while she watches her mother and Abuelita make dinner. She... (full context)
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Reyna brings Betty outside and sits down with Mago. She begins crying, unsure of why she... (full context)
Book One: Chapter 11
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As Reyna and her siblings struggle to understand why their mother has come back, they learn of... (full context)
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...La Quinta Castrejón, the only place in town “immune to the recession.” Mago, Carlos, and Reyna accompany their mother there most nights, waiting outside in the cold with cigarettes, gum, and... (full context)
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...night, Mami announces that she never wants to come back to La Quinta Castrejón again. Reyna knows that her mother is fleeing from the glittering pool and the memories associated with... (full context)
Book One: Chapter 12
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Reyna fills in the blanks as to what happened between her Mami and Papi in El... (full context)
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...to leave, but Mami insists that she has made her decision. The next day, when Reyna and her siblings get home from school, they find that their mother has gone. The... (full context)
Book One: Chapter 13
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...He loses a good deal of weight and takes on a skeletal appearance. Mago and Reyna are furious with their mother, and believe Carlos’s illness is directly related to her abandonment.... (full context)
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...school between Carlos and Abuelita Chinta, urges Carlos to come with him to find work. Reyna is nervous about Carlos hanging out with their “crazy uncle,” but she admits that there... (full context)
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...Crece is skeletally thin, with oily hair and rotten teeth. He often tries to get Reyna to kiss him, and even masturbates in front of her in the main room of... (full context)
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...Carlos and Crece are inseparable. Mago urges Carlos to remember that Crece isn’t his father. Reyna realizes that, in the wake of their mother’s second abandonment, Carlos is growing up and... (full context)
Book One: Chapter 14
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One afternoon in June of 1983, Abuelita Chinta makes hot chocolate for Reyna, Mago, and Carlos before going out in the rain to visit her daughter, Tía Güera,... (full context)
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...later in the week, the river behind the train tracks floods. The neighborhood adjacent to Reyna’s is completely underwater. One morning, a neighbor knocks on the door frantically, asking for Abuela... (full context)
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Abuelita Chinta, Reyna, and her siblings make their way to Tío Gary’s house—Catalina is his five-year-old daughter. When... (full context)
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The next day, Reyna and her siblings return to Tío Gary’s house—Catalina’s body has been found. Gary and his... (full context)
Book One: Chapter 15
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...Chinta is never stingy about food or money, and often goes without eating so that Reyna, Mago, and Carlos can be fed. (full context)
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...Mago come, too, and take some mangoes to sell at the train station,  Mago and Reyna start accompanying Carlos to keep watch for the owner of the hotel, El Cuervo. One... (full context)
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Abuelita Chinta sends Carlos and Reyna to the train station towards the end of Mago’s shift to collect her and tell... (full context)
Book One: Chapter 16
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...Doña Caro’s house, as she has one of the only phones around. Caro tells Abuelita, Reyna, Mago, and Carlos that Mami and her boyfriend have been in a car accident—Mami only... (full context)
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...they all head into the town center along with Tía Güera and Lupita, and as Reyna plays with her siblings and cousins, she is filled with happiness and hope that things... (full context)
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Things are great for a while—Mami takes Reyna and her siblings out to movies with the money she makes at her job, and... (full context)
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...he develops a cough from sleeping outside each night. At home, Mami joins Mago and Reyna in drawing pictures of their dream house and hanging them up around the shack.  (full context)
Book One: Chapter 17
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One afternoon, Reyna and Carlos pick Mago up from the train station. Mago marvels at how many people... (full context)
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Reyna writes that thirteen years later, she would return to Iguala from El Otro Lado during... (full context)
Book One: Chapter 18
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After Mago’s party, Reyna and her siblings’ relationship with Mami improves. Their weekly visits with her become less awkward,... (full context)
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A few months later, during celebrations in the days leading up to Christmas, Reyna, Mago, and Carlos travel to the wealthy part of town and receive gifts from their... (full context)
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...with a guest: a man named Rey. He is fourteen years younger than her, and Reyna hates him at first sight. Suddenly, she feels that all their Christmas decorations look pathetic.... (full context)
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...from a popular song to express how badly she longs for his return. That evening, Reyna sits at Abuelita Chinta’s altar and prays that her father will come back soon. (full context)
Book One: Chapter 19
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One sunny day in May of 1985, when Reyna is four months away from turning ten, her cousin comes to pay her and her... (full context)
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Tía Emperatriz urges Reyna and her siblings to go and say hello to their father, but Reyna is paralyzed.... (full context)
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Papi hugs Mago and Carlos and then beckons Reyna to him, too. He hugs her briefly and then introduces them all to a woman... (full context)
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Reyna, Carlos, and Mago spend the night at Evila’s house. In the morning, Papi shaves Carlos’s... (full context)
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The next day, Papi sits Reyna, Carlos, and Mago down and announces that though he’s leaving in a few days, he... (full context)
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The next day at school, Reyna’s classmates, having heard that her father is in town, ask her if she’s at last... (full context)
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The next day, Mago and Reyna go to tell Mami the news. Though they anticipate having to beg, plead, and convince... (full context)
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As Mago and Reyna arrive back at the record shop, they see their mother smiling and dancing while dusting... (full context)
Book One: Chapter 20
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Reyna’s first two attempts to cross the border are failures. The first time, she is waylaid... (full context)
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From Chula Vista, right on the other side of the border, Papi, Reyna, Carlos, and Mago pile into a truck that will take them to Los Angeles. The... (full context)
Book Two: Prologue
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In 2010, twenty-five years after Reyna’s new life in the United States began, Papi is diagnosed with liver cancer. Reyna and... (full context)
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On a day in early September of 2011, Papi’s doctor tells Mago, Reyna, and Carlos that it is time to let their father go. Reyna is reluctant to... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 1
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In September of 1985, Reyna and her siblings have been in the United States for three months. Reyna is about... (full context)
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At bedtime, Mago, Reyna, and Carlos pull out the sofa bed in the living room where they have been... (full context)
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In the morning, Reyna begs her siblings to walk her to her elementary school four blocks away, but they... (full context)
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Once in class, Reyna introduces herself to her teacher Mrs. Anderson, but then realizes that she’ll be learning from... (full context)
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After school, Reyna goes to a neighbor’s house. The kindly Mrs. Giuliano makes Reyna some soup, and though... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 2
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The day before Reyna’s first Halloween in the United States, Mila comes home with a Rainbow Brite costume for... (full context)
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That evening Mila hurries Reyna to get ready for trick-or-treating. Reyna insists she doesn’t want to go. Mila tells Reyna... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 3
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One afternoon, Mila picks Reyna up from school early to take her to the dentist. Reyna has been suffering toothaches... (full context)
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At the office, Reyna has one of her baby molars pulled after a large cavity is discovered inside of... (full context)
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Back at home, Reyna relays the story to Mago, who replies that Reyna got what she deserved for being... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 4
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One evening, Mila makes spaghetti for dinner. Reyna hates spaghetti—it reminds her of the roundworms she, Mago, and Carlos had to get out... (full context)
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Papi retreats to his room with his beer, and while Mago helps Reyna clean up in the bathroom, Mila makes Reyna some scrambled eggs to eat. Reyna cries... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 5
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Never having had a TV in Mexico, in El Otro Lado, Reyna, Carlos, and Mago become obsessed with television. One day, near Christmastime, they are watching cartoons... (full context)
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...weeks later, none of their presents from “Santa Claus” have arrived, and Mago, Carlos, and Reyna are still nervous about finding something for Papi. They decide to shoplift from the corner... (full context)
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...present Papi and Mila with their “gifts,” and Mila and Papi present them with theirs. Reyna gets a pair of tennis shoes, Mago gets a pretty dress, and Carlos gets a... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 6
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One day, the girls in Reyna’s fifth-grade class are taken into the auditorium and shown a video about puberty. Many of... (full context)
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The following week, Carlos—not Mago—comes to pick Reyna up from Mrs. Giuliano’s after school. He explains that Mago isn’t feeling well, and didn’t... (full context)
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...her a horrible lashing. Carlos tries to intervene, but Papi won’t stop. It’s only when Reyna explains that Mago is menstruating that Papi puts his belt down. Stunned, he goes into... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 7
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One day, the school nurse comes into Reyna’s classroom to do a lice check. When the nurse is done inspecting Reyna, she writes... (full context)
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When Papi gets home and Reyna shows him the note, though, he is calm and understanding. He tells Reyna that the... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 8
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...allowed. Mago sublimates her frustration into lewd Barbie doll games, and even tries to get Reyna to kiss her during a game of “Mama y Papa.” When Reyna asks what’s wrong... (full context)
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...to go to church one Sunday and pray for Pepe to notice her. She and Reyna go to a nearby Catholic church, braving the forty-minute walk for the sake of making... (full context)
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...her, but not before apologizing to María. Horrified by her siblings’ first experiences with love, Reyna worries about what her own first love will hold. (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 9
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One week, Reyna’s teachers inform her that there is going to be a schoolwide competition: every student will... (full context)
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While Mrs. Anderson judges the books, she puts on a movie for the class, but Reyna can’t focus—she watches closely as Mrs. Anderson reads all the books, and is heartbroken when... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 10
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In May of 1986, a year after Reyna and her siblings first arrived in the U.S., Papi falls off a ladder at work... (full context)
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...that their mother has a new child—a boy, who is not even three months old. Reyna is dizzied and sickened by the news—but still, despite it all, yearns to see Mami... (full context)
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As the weeks go by, Reyna and Carlos continue begging Papi to let them see Mami. The more they ask, though,... (full context)
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...back to the States. Lupita, however, will have to be left behind with Abuelita Chinta. Reyna is saddened to hear this news, and hopes that “one day the cycle of leaving... (full context)
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Once Tia Güera and Betty arrive in the U.S., Reyna and Carlos at last convince Papi to let them go see Mami. They tell him... (full context)
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...to give the children a chance to get to know their father without her interference. Reyna understands, but knows this can’t be the only reason. She sees, at last, the kind... (full context)
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Reyna and her siblings visit Mami every Sunday, though this displeases Papi. He only allows them... (full context)
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Mago, Reyna, and Carlos slowly get used to their new “double lives.” Papi and Mami refuse to... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 11
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Papi constantly tries to impress upon Reyna, Mago, and Carlos how important an education is. He tells them that without one, they... (full context)
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...to go to high school. When Papi takes her to buy new clothes to celebrate, Reyna becomes jealous and upset that Mago will always get to do everything first. Reyna decides... (full context)
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Reyna starts junior high at a place even bigger than her elementary school. When her teachers... (full context)
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When Reyna brings the saxophone home and shows Papi, he is amazed and asks her to play.... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 12
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Papi doesn’t allow Reyna and her siblings to go out and play in the neighborhood—there is a lot of... (full context)
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...move his family out of their dangerous neighborhood. Watching her father head off for school, Reyna feels that her father’s desire for a better life and passion for education is “contagious.” (full context)
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...listen, though, and leaves the next day for Mexico. The whole time Papi is gone, Reyna has trouble focusing in school and finds herself distracted at home. She worries nonstop about... (full context)
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Two weeks later, Reyna and her siblings come home from school to find Papi sitting at the kitchen table.... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 13
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When Reyna starts eighth grade, she has officially become a señorita, and has also placed out of... (full context)
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Halfway through the school year, Reyna enters a short-story competition. Just as with her book competition in elementary school, Reyna enters... (full context)
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Several weeks later, Reyna is announced as the winner of the writing competition. Her English teacher gives her the... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 14
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In the middle of eighth grade, Reyna falls in love. The boy she develops a crush on is named Luis. Though Reyna’s... (full context)
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When Reyna gets home, Papi is angry at her for being out late. Reyna lies and says... (full context)
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On Monday, Reyna tries to find Luis at lunch to talk to him, but when she spots him,... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 15
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...either side of her family to earn a high school diploma. At the same time, Reyna is graduating from junior high. She is the third person to do so, and so... (full context)
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Reyna attends band camp at the high school that summer, and the months fly by. Soon,... (full context)
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...hard she tries to get Papi to come out of his room, he stays put. Reyna wishes she had the courage to call 911, or go find a neighbor. Neither her... (full context)
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In the morning, Papi still refuses to take Carlos to the hospital. Reyna and Mago beg Mila to take him, but she won’t defy Papi, either. Mago goes... (full context)
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...father grew up in an abusive household, he doesn’t know any other way to behave. Reyna and her siblings understand what life with Augurio and Evila must have been like, but... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 16
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...of the week and proudly gave him to Papi to help cover the family’s expenses, Reyna can now see her sister hesitating. She loses interest in her classes at college, and... (full context)
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One afternoon, walking down the street, Mago and Reyna pass by a dress boutique and see a mannequin in the window wearing a gorgeous... (full context)
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Mago hires a dressmaker to make Reyna’s dress, and soon the day of the event arrives. Reyna is nervous, as she and... (full context)
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The party that night is beautiful and emotional for Reyna—both her parents are there in the same room, even though they are at opposite ends... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 17
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In November of her junior year of high school, Reyna is accepted into the All City Honor Marching Band. To get in, though, she has... (full context)
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Reyna begins a flirtation with another member of the band named Axel. Though they like each... (full context)
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When the day of the Rose Parade arrives, Mago is the only member of Reyna’s family who attends her performance. In the weeks after the parade, Reyna notices that Axel... (full context)
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The day of the prom, Mago takes Reyna out dancing to distract her. They drive across town in Mago’s new car, dressed up... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 18
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...head out for a drive. Mago dismisses the car as a piece of junk, but Reyna secretly hopes that when she starts college, Papi will buy her a car too. Even... (full context)
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Mago and Reyna, too, try to talk Carlos out of the marriage, but he won’t listen to his... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 19
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In 1993, during Reyna’s senior year of high school, Mago decides to go with Mami on a trip to... (full context)
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...wants to go to Mexico is to visit Acapulco with one of her work friends. Reyna accompanies Mago to the travel agent’s office, and Mago offers to buy Reyna a ticket... (full context)
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A few weeks later, Reyna joins Mago, Mami, Leonardo, and Betty on their trip. Papi is furious that she is... (full context)
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In Mexico, Reyna is shocked by how things in Iguala have deteriorated. The river behind Abuelita Chinta’s house... (full context)
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Seeing for the first time through new eyes the poverty in which she grew up, Reyna realizes how her father must have felt when he came back to Mexico to retrieve... (full context)
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When Reyna returns to Abuelita Chinta’s house from visiting her friends, Mago is cross with her for... (full context)
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As Reyna runs crying into the house, she realizes that while she herself still speaks English with... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 20
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A couple weeks after returning from Mexico, Mago tells Reyna that she’s planning on looking for an apartment with her friend. Reyna gets worried that... (full context)
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Reyna has joined track and field and gotten a boyfriend named Steve. Steve is desperate to... (full context)
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A week later, Mago tells Reyna that she and her friend have found an apartment—but won’t be able to take Reyna... (full context)
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...if she does so; she will be “dead” to him. Mago doesn’t say anything, and Reyna begs her once more to stay. (full context)
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Every day, Reyna comes home from school, praying that Mago hasn’t already left. Mago comes home every evening,... (full context)
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Two days after the celebration dinner, however, Reyna comes home to an empty bedroom—Mago has left without telling anybody, even Reyna. Reyna starts... (full context)
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Reyna graduates from school, but Papi will not allow her to send in her paperwork to... (full context)
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Papi’s drinking worsens and worsens over the summer, and Reyna begins selling his beer cans at the recycling center. He argues with Mila nonstop, but... (full context)
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That Sunday, Mago comes to pick Reyna up. Reyna calls through her father’s bedroom door that she’s going out with Mago, but... (full context)
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Reyna asks Mila why Mago didn’t come to help her. Papi insists that Mago doesn’t care... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 21
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In the aftermath of Mago’s departure, Reyna’s bedroom becomes both her prison and her haven. In order to avoid her father and... (full context)
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One afternoon, Reyna calls her boyfriend Steve and asks him to come over. They lay down on her... (full context)
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Reyna begins engaging in other reckless behaviors. She tries to get a job as a movie... (full context)
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Several weeks later, Reyna breaks up with Steve. She knows that in having unprotected premarital sex with him, she... (full context)
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...he could if the cows didn’t listen. Papi was only nine years old. After telling Reyna this story, he asks if she “understand[s.]” Reyna doesn’t say anything—she is still too angry... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 22
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In 1994, Reyna enrolls in an English class at Pasadena City College that is part of the requirements... (full context)
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The following semester, even though Reyna isn’t taking one of Dr. Savas’s class, she stops by the professor’s office to say... (full context)
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Reyna visits Dr. Savas more and more frequently. They never talk about personal matters—just about books... (full context)
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...to the hospital because Papi pushed her down the stairs and onto some gardening tools. Reyna takes Betty, who is visiting, to her room to avoid Papi. Some time later, Reyna... (full context)
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That night, when Reyna takes Betty home to Mami’s, Mami offers Reyna the chance to come stay with her.... (full context)
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Unsure of what to do and desperate for help, Reyna goes to Dr. Savas’s office and at last confesses the truth about her home life.... (full context)
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As Reyna explores Diana’s extensive library of books, she finds solace in stories and novels by Latina... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 23
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A year and a half later, Mila finally decides to leave Papi. Reyna is surprised. Even more shocking is the fact that Mila withdraws a large sum of... (full context)
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Out of obligation, Reyna returns home to her father’s side. She has graduated from PCC and, in the fall,... (full context)
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As Reyna passes the summer with Papi, she finds he has changed. She often brings her newest... (full context)
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...calls the children “leeches” and says they’d still be “wetbacks” if it weren’t for her. Reyna feels torn—she knows she owes Mila a lot, but can’t explain to her how she... (full context)
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As the weeks go by, Reyna is surprised by the continuing changes in Papi. He never criticizes or yells at Reyna,... (full context)
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...Mila is coming back home—but there is a condition to her return. She doesn’t want Reyna, Mago, or Carlos around. Reyna is sickened to learn that her father has agreed to... (full context)
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Reyna stays at Diana’s house for the last few days before her trip up to UC... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 24
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Reyna’s boyfriend Edwin picks her up from Diana’s to drive her up to UC Santa Cruz.... (full context)
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Edwin helps Reyna move into her student apartment. She wishes that her mother and father and siblings were... (full context)
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As Reyna makes her way to a cliff looking over the ocean, she realizes she has nothing... (full context)
Book Two: Epilogue
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In June of 1999, Reyna becomes the first person in her family to graduate from college—with honors to boot. Her... (full context)
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In 2000 Reyna becomes an ESL teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District. She hopes to be... (full context)
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In 2002, Reyna becomes a United States citizen, though she continues to consider herself Mexican-American. Both countries are... (full context)
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After Papi is diagnosed with liver cancer in 2010, Reyna finds herself having to once again reframe her idea of who her father truly is.... (full context)
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Towards the end of Papi’s struggle, Reyna knows that what he truly needs is her forgiveness. The day before her thirty-sixth birthday,... (full context)