In the memoir, A Dream Called Home, Reyna Grande highlights the concept of identity as she pursues her writing career that would propel her to achieve the American dream. Grande examines the concept of identity through analyzing her life as a Mexican American, as a woman of color, as a daughter, as a student and as a writer. Grande describes her identity border where she states,’ because I was a child immigrant my identity was split; I often felt like an outcast for not being completely Mexican but not fully American either’ (Grande, 46). Grande faces an identity crisis while in school as she faces microaggressions perpetrated by white students and the faculty at University of California, Santa Cruz.
She describes her battle of feeling like an outsider before finding her identity and place in the writing program. The faculty projected her fears of lack of an identity where the professors had difficulty pronouncing her name on the first day of class. In addition, she found it hard to make friends as she struggled to relate to her non-Latin classmates. The difference in culture exacerbated the difficulty in relating to other students thus she preferred to be alone since she felt out of place, a perception that made her struggle in class. However, Grande finds balance in her life through the help of her mentor and becomes comfortable with her dual identity. Marta tells Grande that the treatment she received in Mexico was directly proportional to how she was different. Marta states, ‘You are now bilingual, bicultural and binational. You are not less. You are more’ (Grande 96). Marta’s presence as a mentor helps Grande fell less different and helps her find a place to belong in the American society without abandoning her cultural heritage. After this transformation she is able to make friends with her roommates who take her to a campus protest. At the protest she completely sheds her fear of self-identity as she meets other minority students and Latinx who could relate to her dilemma. She is thus able to settle in school and even enrolls in a student folk group which makes her feel more complete. The practicing of Mexican traditions in the folklore group helps her overcome the alienating sense of otherness thus became more comfortable of her heritage.
The concept of pursuit of the American dream is first highlighted by the immigration of her parents to the U.S. Grande’s parents immigrated to American looking for better paying jobs than what was available in Mexico as they wanted a better life for the family. Grande follows in their footsteps and is determined to achieve success whatever the cost. She leaves her family behind in Los Angeles to pursue her writer’s dream in California. She was motivated by the desire to prove her father wrong as he constantly stated she would not finish school nor excel in her endeavors. The desire to prove her family wrong led her to surmount all challenges that were hindering this dream.
Grande transition to college was raided with plenty of challenges. In her pursuit of the American dream, she had to shoulder the financial burden of tuition fees and living expenses, thus had to learn financial literacy. Grande was responsible for her success thus had to learn to navigate financial aid, affording utilities and housing. Her family did not believe in her dream of being successful in a different culture thus did not contribute financially to her education. Her resilience to pursue her career was also developed by her ability to persevere through strained family relationships since she was the only one in the family who believed in her. The turning point of her identity crisis in her pursuit of the American dream was through her mentors such as Marta Navarro who guided her to show that minority groups are also part of the American society. Her mentors believed in her ability and provided her with moral support that led her to be bold to take on challenges head-on. Grande discovery that her cultural background was not an impediment to achieve success also contributed to her relentless pursuit of finding her creative writing niche which would propel her to achieve her American dream.
Grande, Grande. A Dream Called Home: A Memoir. Washington Square Press, 2019.