Across a Hundred Mountains
I learn by talking with friends and watching films. And occasionally, I run across a book that brings it all together. Last week, I finally picked up Across a Hundred Mountains, a book I bought a year ago when I met the author, Reyna Grande, at a writers' conference. As unfortunate as it was that I let it sit on the shelf for a year, the path I've been on recently, receiving much more input from and about the struggles of brown people, prepared me better to be open to this novel about being Mexican on both sides of the border.
When I came out of the sweat lodge in Tlxacalancingo last year and got hosed down, someone thrust an orange into my hands and before I knew it, I had eaten at least two, maybe three. I was ravenous for the sweet juicy pulp.
My mind reacted to Grande's book much like my body reacted to those oranges. I woke up to it and went to bed with it at night until it was finished, thinking about it during the day while I craved to see what the next chapter would bring.
Publishers Weekly calls it, "A topical and heartbreaking border story...Two stories cross and re-cross in unexpected ways, driving toward a powerful conclusion."
Here's a taste:
"Is El Otro Lado far away, Papi?" Juana heard the girl and paid attention.
"It's on the other side of the border, mi'ja," the father said. "When we get to Tijuana, a coyote will help us cross the border."
"What's the border, Papi?"
"Hills," her father whispered. "Hills and bushes, that's all it is. But we must walk across it."
"Papi, if it's just land, why can't we take the bus all the way there? Why must we walk across?"
"Because we don't have papers, Carmen. And even though it is just land, it represents a wall. We must go like thieves."
Reyna Grande is going to be an important writer. Go buy yourself a copy of Across a Hundred Mountains and find out why.