The Distance Between Us

The Distance Between Us

by

Reyna Grande

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Reyna’s Alto Sax Symbol Analysis

Reyna’s Alto Sax Symbol Icon

In junior high, Reyna finds herself slightly adrift at her big new school. Though she’s been living in the United States for a while, her English is still imperfect and accented, and she is shy, withdrawn, and quiet at school because of her insecurities concerning her language skills. When she’s placed in band as her elective class, her teacher takes her to an instrument storage closet on the first day of class and offers her the chance to pick out an instrument. Reyna is shocked that she can borrow an instrument, free of charge, from the school, and delighted to have her pick of flutes, clarinets, and saxophones. She selects for herself an alto saxophone. Though it’s a large and heavy instrument that dwarfs Reyna, she is thrilled by the chance to have an outlet of self-expression that doesn’t require language. Over the years, Reyna’s skill and attachment to the sax grow; it becomes one of her “favorite ways of expressing [her]self,” and a comfort in the midst of her painful life in her father’s abusive household.

The saxophone is a symbol of Reyna’s ongoing struggle to find a way of expressing herself and carving out an identity in her new life in America. Reyna both longs to comfort herself and to impress her Papi, and assure him she’s taking advantage of the opportunity he’s given her by bringing her to the United States. The alto sax, which Reyna shoulders proudly even though its straps dig into her neck and its weight tests her strength, symbolizes her commitment to growing, learning, and coming into her own despite all the challenges and setbacks she has faced over the course of her adolescence.

Reyna’s Alto Sax Quotes in The Distance Between Us

The The Distance Between Us quotes below all refer to the symbol of Reyna’s Alto Sax. 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 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:
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Reyna’s Alto Sax Symbol Timeline in The Distance Between Us

The timeline below shows where the symbol Reyna’s Alto Sax appears in The Distance Between Us. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book Two: Chapter 11
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
...can borrow any instrument she wants from school for free, and Reyna selects an alto saxophone. Though it is heavy and the neck strap digs into her skin, Reyna loves playing... (full context)
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
When Reyna brings the saxophone home and shows Papi, he is amazed and asks her to play. She squeaks out... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 13
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
Forgiveness and Recognition Theme Icon
...to explore stories about broken families, absent parents, and separated siblings. Writing, alongside the alto sax, becomes one of Reyna’s favorite ways of expressing herself. (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 17
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
...All City Honor Marching Band. To get in, though, she has to switch from the sax to the bells—a change she’s very sad about. Despite her big accomplishment, Papi has offered... (full context)